911 misdials factor into police service agreement
The city of Fairfield is contemplating an agreement to extend police protection to Maharishi Vedic City.
In return, Vedic City would pay the city $13,000 a year. Vedic City council member Chris Johnson said in an interview today that the Vedic City councilors have observed the Fairfield Police Department already has a significant presence near Vedic City because it patrols the airport.
“We already work with Fairfield to get fire coverage,” Johnson said. “We have mutual interests. The truth is, we have little to no crime issues here anyway.”
During the Fairfield City Council meeting Monday, Fairfield Police Chief Julie Harvey touched on some issues the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has had with Vedic City in recent years.
One of those is the number of 911 misdials originating from Vedic City. Of the 108 calls for service to Vedic City in 2012, 70 were 911 misdials. That number is down from what it was in 2010, when Vedic City had 134 calls for service, of which 100 were 911 misdials.
Johnson said Vedic City is trying to reduce those 911 misdials by educating the pandit campus to be more careful when making international calls. He said the problem might be caused by the country code for India, which is “91,” and the city code for Delhi, which is “11,” because many of the pandits are from India and Delhi in particular.
Johnson said Vedic City is working with the 911 Coordinator in Jefferson County to try to screen those 911 misdials, if that is possible.
Harvey suggested that the large number of misdials was due in part to a failure to pause between digits when making international calls. To make an international call, a caller dials “9” to get out and then the international calling prefix “0-1-1,” after which he dials the code of the country he’s calling. If a person forgets to dial the international prefix first, a call to Delhi would trigger a 911 emergency call.
Harvey said in an interview Tuesday that Vedic City has a low crime rate. The city has about 1,200 residents. In 2012, law enforcement recorded 17 calls from the city that were of a criminal nature.
Furthermore, 911 misdials are not unique to Vedic City. Fairfield generates hundreds of 911 misdials per year. When Vedic City recorded 100 misdials of 911 in 2010, Fairfield recorded 507 that same year.
When Vedic City recorded 70 misdials in 2012, Fairfield recorded 432.
Harvey noticed a surge in 911 misdials when the cell phone prefix “9-1-9” was introduced in Jefferson County. Callers who mistakenly dial the “1” twice generate a 911 emergency call.
“Even if you don’t have service, that call will go through,” she said. “It’s an emergency measure that the cell towers did. You don’t even have to hit ‘send.’ Once you dial 911, that call is going through.”
One positive development is that 911 misdials seem to be going down slightly in the past couple of years. Harvey said this might be because new cell phones are “locked” and require their operator to swipe the screen before dialing, which reduces the number of accidental dials.
“We’d be happy to exchange that prefix with somebody else,” she said.
Law enforcement officers are required to respond to 911 calls, even if the caller calls back to tell dispatch it was a misdial.
Harvey said some police departments in the country have been sued because they failed to send an officer to the site of a 911 call.
“We have to respond to every 911 call, even if the caller says it’s a misdial,” she said. “It could be a domestic violence case where one of the people in the dispute has taken the phone from the other one and says, ‘Things are good.’ But later, after someone is hurt, the caller will say, ‘I dialed 911 and you guys didn’t show up.’ That’s when the lawsuits start.”
Harvey hopes that 911 misdials will continue to drop in the future. She said callers need to be informed of how to make international calls, and encouraged to lock their cell phones. More than anything, callers must know how serious a 911 misdial is.
“Our officers are having to leave serious calls such as a search warrant or death investigation to respond to those calls,” she said.