NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Consider this: The 911 dispatcher picks up a call in North Salem and there is no answer on the other end.
The dispatcher calls the number back to ask if there is an emergency. No one picks up. What should the police do?
North Salem Police Sergeant Andrew Brown explained, “It may be an emergency or it may be a mistake. They try to call the person back. If someone answers, they may or may not send the local police. Usually the police do go.”
Hang-ups happen more often than people think and they cost local police departments time and money.
“In North Salem we get 70 or so 911 calls a year and more than half the time it’s kids. The Pequenakonck School allows the kids to call home, but it has trunk lines so it is hard to tell where the call originates. A lot of them live in the 845 area code, so they dial 9, then 1-845. If they accidentally hit that number one twice, it becomes a 911 call. Then we have to go to the school and try to figure out which kid made the call.”
Westchester County Police spokesperson Kieran O’Leary said, “It would save police resources if people would just admit it if they've made a call in error. We prefer people to stay on the line because if they freak out or get embarrassed and hang up, we will send police to their door.”
Most police department policies require a patrol check on any 911 call that is not resolved in case a caller in trouble cannot speak over the phone. It is better to be safe than sorry, O’Leary added.
“We don’t view it as an inconvenience," he said. "It’s our duty to make absolutely sure that the public is safe.”