Monday, July 31, 2017

Reduce public-safety costs by diverting non-emergency 911 calls

CityLab has a story about a topic that's been on my mind lately, though I hadn't written anything yet: How to reduce 911 volume by weeding out non-emergency calls. Mostly on Grits we've discussed this in terms of time wasted on false alarms from private burglar alarm companies, which make up 10-12% of 911 calls and almost never result in arrests, even in the less than 1% of cases in which a burglary actually occurred. But there are other means, like diverting non-emergency medical situations from the emergency room, as discussed in the CityLab article. One might also suggest diversion programs for calls related to the mentally ill - right now we use the same tactics and personnel to respond whether the emergency involves a criminal or a patient.

911 is treated by the public as a one-size-fits-all solution to a multi-variate array of life problems. Whittling back its use would decrease demand for patrol services without harming public safety and relieve pressure on local budgets to constantly increase police staffing. Instead, departments could more thoughtfully deploy their officers and be less reactive, spending more money on detectives, crime labs, crime-scene techs, and other necessary functions that make it more likely crimes will be solved.


Anonymous said...

In Virginia local transients that wanted to go downtown but didn't want to brave snow, heat or rainy conditions would dial 911, lie on the ground and want for the usual police car, fire engine and ambulance combo to show up. After a few dozen such episodes the individual would have a police car visit him first to see if he was merely intoxicated yet again. In Charlottesville, Virginia there were more than a few people that had racked up several hundred arrests during their adult lives for drunk in public, making false calls about emergencies, etc.,etc. Every time a person got a police car, ambulance and fire engine to show up the taxpayer paid for another $1,500.00 taxi ride to the comfy emergency room near the downtown mall---whether or not it was just another overdose on forty ouncers.

Wasn't at all unusual to see those that knew how to get to the warm hospital on a chilly night for free to have accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars in uncompensated health care costs and fines for abusing emergency services. A few chalked up close to a million in unpaid hospital bills during their adult lives.

Anonymous said...

The city of Houston has made numerous attempts to curtail such calls in the past but it all boils down to how much support there is to tell people "no", those in leadership positions placed in the dispatch center because they were seen as defective leaders or as a means to punish them when the jail positions were all taken. The fire department has implemented different strategies such as a video doctor system or contacting the police when someone calls 911 just to get a free ride to scheduled doctor appointments but for both police and fire, all reforms last just as long as it takes for some council member to get a constituent call.

Anonymous said...

The public uses 911 as a catch all because, when 911 was implemented, that's how it was promoted. No matter what is happening, call 911. Plus, since 911 went into service, the police, fire, EMS, and city services non-emergency numbers are impossible to find.

Anonymous said...

Everything has the possibility of abuse, it is up to the people that take an Oath of Office to protect Americans and the Constitution