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Danthia
04-20-2008, 05:12 PM
Hey there, hopefully someone can help me out. I'm working on a scene and I want to get it right. How would 911 respond to this situation:

Two teen girls are home alone and they spot a van outside that they know shouldn't be there. One girl's father was just killed in prison (he's in jail for murder) and she's recently been followed by a strange man. Her friend dials 911 and tells them the details.

Would 911 send a police officer out to investigate, or is there not enough "evidence" to warrant action?

Thanks!

CDarklock
04-20-2008, 05:36 PM
It wouldn't be unusual for an officer to be dispatched. If you need the officer not to be dispatched, it just has to be a busy night; "strange van" takes a back seat to "robbery in progress", for example. It could be particularly tense if the girls are watching the car approach, they see its lights come on, and the car turns around to speed off.

shelboselby
04-20-2008, 05:40 PM
In my area, 911 dispatches a police officer if you even just call them. That's why it's illegal to call 911 if there isn't an actual emergency. If you stay on the line long enough for them to track the phone call, they'll send police to check, even if you don't bother saying anything.

So I think the police would come to investigate, unless they hung up really fast.

Jersey Chick
04-20-2008, 06:13 PM
Here, if you dial 911 - the police have to come out and respond - even if you've done it accidentally. And, usually, the 911 operator will stay on the line with you until an officer shows up.

maestrowork
04-20-2008, 06:15 PM
Ask Kristie911 -- she works for the 911 Dispatch.

BlackViolet13
04-20-2008, 06:20 PM
My husband is a police sergeant, and he says they always send somebody out in his department. He's had little kids call 911 "for practice" or by accident, and no matter what they send somebody over to make sure everything's OK.

RJK
04-20-2008, 07:25 PM
Darklock has it right. It depends on how busy the department is, and how busy it is when the call is made. The police will respond, the WHEN is the question. You can have them there in minutes if that fits your story, or have them arrive two minutes or, in the case of some of the bigger cities, an hour too late.

My-Immortal
04-20-2008, 07:40 PM
It's been quite a few years now, but I used to dispatch 911. Like others have said, an officer is sent to follow up--however certain calls did take priority over others--and an honest 911 mistake (usually people trying to dial 411) were handled after more urgent calls.

icerose
04-20-2008, 07:50 PM
It's becoming a problem in bigger cities. There was that boy, 5 years old, who called 911 because his mother collapsed. He called like 3 times and they refused to send help, after about two or three hours I believe one of the family members came. She was already dead.

Then there was recently that woman who was abducted, called 911 from her home as it was happening, left it off the hook, then got the abductor's cell phone and called 911 giving instructions, then she was caught and pulled into the back seat, another motorist saw it and followed, called 911 giving directions. The dispatcher didn't relay the call for 2 full hours. By the time they found her she was raped and murdered.

Not all dispatchers are compentent, and not all dispatchers take calls seriously, unfortunately.

So it really depends on where you're at and which dispatcher you get. We're really small around here, they'll try a call back first if there was no one on the line, if they can't reach anyone they send an officer.

BlackViolet13
04-20-2008, 07:59 PM
Not all dispatchers are compentent, and not all dispatchers take calls seriously, unfortunately.

So it really depends on where you're at and which dispatcher you get. We're really small around here, they'll try a call back first if there was no one on the line, if they can't reach anyone they send an officer.

Wow, those examples just make me sick! I say it's much better to be safe than sorry, no matter how bogus they think a call is. And if it is bogus, let the jokesters deal with the full extent of the law and learn a lesson from it!

RumpleTumbler
04-20-2008, 08:00 PM
Ask Kristy911.

Pronounced Creeeeesssssteeeeeeee.

LeeFlower
04-20-2008, 08:47 PM
I called the cops for a prowler once when I was a teen, but whoever it was had already left by the time they showed up (about fifteen minutes later, from a police station three minutes away. Working-class urban neighborhood). My mom showed up just after the cops did, and they spent five minutes lecturing her about how irresponsible it was to leave a girl home alone who couldn't be trusted not to crank-call the cops. She was furious (at them, not me).

If you need the cops to show up fast for your story, you can say it was a slow night, or possibly have her file a report about being followed ahead of time so that the cops have more reason to take it seriously. Alternately, do you know what your MC's friend's parents do for a living? If one of her parents is a cop or dispatcher, she can call them directly and get a fast response that way.

If you need them to be too late: idiot dispatcher, busy night, cops have a grudge against her dad, or any number of other things. Great thing about novel-writing is that you don't need to do what's typical--only what plausible. Good luck!

Jersey Chick
04-20-2008, 08:57 PM
I have to give props to our police department. I've called 911 on two occasions - once from my mother's house and once from a store parking lot (a woman got hit by a car and the car didn't stop).

The first time, was because we thought there was a prowler (it turned out to be my cousin, who was living with us at the time, locked himself out, and was pissed that we called the police - until he realized why we'd called them.) The 911 dispatcher stayed on the line until the patrol cars (yes, they sent two - must've been a slow night :)) showed up. Of course, they proceeded to throw my cousin up against one of the cruisers for a patdown, but it was understandable. We laugh about it now. :D

The time in the parking lot, there was an officer there almost before I had a chance to disconnect the phone.

One time, a local cop changed a flat for my mom. THey went out of their way two summers ago when we were looking for a (possibly rabid) cat that scratched my daughter. Our department's one of the good ones... :D

benbradley
04-20-2008, 09:27 PM
In my area, 911 dispatches a police officer if you even just call them. That's why it's illegal to call 911 if there isn't an actual emergency. If you stay on the line long enough for them to track the phone call, they'll send police to check, even if you don't bother saying anything.

Don't 911 centers (well, most if not all) use the "ANN" thing or whatever it is - it's like caller ID but can't be blocked or spoofed, so they ALWAYS know the phone number (and the computer instantly looks up and displays the address, provided it's a land line) even before they answer?

GeorgeK
04-20-2008, 10:58 PM
Here 911 will definitely not guarantee a police investigation. It can be different in rural areas. I had a 911 operator refuse to send police after I'd been shot at by a trespasser. She said, "well if you weren't hit..."
I've wondered if sometimes here they just use an answering service because they have to ask for the address of where you call from, how to spell it, spell your name. If you call the courthouse sometimes they answer, "911". Everywhere else I've lived I was told if you ever called them, your address would pop up on their computer screen.

Kryianna
04-20-2008, 11:03 PM
They don't always send a cruiser where I am, either. My company recently got a contract to do a lot of international sales calls, and the sales folk had a hard time understanding how to dial internationally from within the office. There was a bunch of accidental 911 calls, and the police ended up just calling our office manager and asking them to please better educate the sales folk.

Daimeera
04-21-2008, 12:31 AM
My brother called 911 once--by accident.

Without dialing any numbers.

He says he was playing with the . . . what's it called, the thing you press to hang up? He was tapping away, and he got a 911 operator. We still don't know how he did it, but I don't doubt him at all. If anyone has insights, I'd love to hear them--it might make for a good plot line sometime.

Anyway, back on topic, he managed to convince them that indeed no one was trying to call 911. He was thoroughly embarrassed, but they didn't send anyone out, and he's never done it again.

On the other hand, my mother called 911 this year when my grandmother wouldn't stop bleeding, and they sent someone right away, but that was an ambulance. Still, from what I've heard, they're pretty good here.

reigningcatsndogs
04-21-2008, 02:06 AM
Here they do not always attend. Even if a business has an alarm system and the alarm goes off the police will not attend. I know from being a dispatcher that false alarms are not unusual, but even where there is history of thefts, the police won't attend. If they do and they find nothing there, even if there are witnesses who saw someone around the building, the business owner is fined, so most of them have told the security companies not to call the police at all.

We called 911 once when we were camping because a group of approximately 100 teenagers were literally destroying the campground. They burned every structure there, they pushed vehicles into the lake, they had guns and were shooting them, and running around with axes to destroy other people's property. The police did not attend. They told us after the fact that the situation was too dangerous for them to approach.

When I dispatched, admittedly some years ago, all 911 calls were responded to, and any hang-up calls were responded to even faster. For the purposes of writing, I think you could get away with whatever your plot requires -- a fast response, a slow response or no response, depending on how busy the police, what priority your call has, and the policy of the local police council.

Mac H.
04-21-2008, 02:21 AM
My brother called 911 once--by accident.

Without dialing any numbers.

He says he was playing with the . . . what's it called, the thing you press to hang up? He was tapping away, and he got a 911 operator. We still don't know how he did it, but I don't doubt him at all. If anyone has insights, I'd love to hear them--it might make for a good plot line sometime.You can do that on older exchanges - it is called 'decadic dialling'.

Basically if you press the hook switch 9 times quickly it is equivalent to pressing '9'. In fact, that was the way the old dial telephones worked ... dialing a number wound up a spring, and as the spring unwound it would 'flash' the hook switch with a pulse every time it passed a point. (It was the 'click' sound you used to hear in the receiver)

You can do it even without a telephone ... just short together the wires momentarily. (Actually - short the wires together, then UNSHORT them momentarily. Do 9 pulses of 'unshorted', a pause, then 1 pulse, a pause, then 1 pulse, then leave the wires shorted). It is getting phased out now, and exchanges no longer have to interprete decadic dialling.

Another bit of trivia ... Australia is one of the first countries where you can 'dial' emergency (000 - our equivalent to 911) with an online chat instead of a telephone. It's actually an older standard that pre-dated internet chats ... you basically telnet into a certain number and start talking. I want to use that in fiction.

They are talking about scrapping it .. because it barely gets used.

Mac

stormie
04-21-2008, 02:54 AM
As others have said, it seems to depend on your area. Here we have several small towns, each one with its own police department and a volunteer first aid. Over the years I've had to dial 911 many times for different family members (never a dull moment here!). I've always, always gotten a response within minutes. And the first aid and police know us by name.

ETA: When one of my sons was very young, he dialed 911 and hung up to see what would happen. I didn't know it until the police showed up.

Tish Davidson
04-21-2008, 04:04 AM
Don't 911 centers (well, most if not all) use the "ANN" thing or whatever it is - it's like caller ID but can't be blocked or spoofed, so they ALWAYS know the phone number (and the computer instantly looks up and displays the address, provided it's a land line) even before they answer?


I think with cell phones at least in our area the calls go to a different center and then have to be relayed to the local cops. Also, with cell phone number, you may know the number, but don't know where the caller is.

kristie911
04-21-2008, 04:31 AM
I showed up at this party too late. I can't really think of anything to add except if you have any other questions, feel free to PM me. :)

Danthia
04-21-2008, 04:18 PM
Thanks all! Great information and very helpful. The book takes place in a small-ish town, so it looks like what I want for plot is workable.