Porter County Sheriff's Department

What's Happening at The Porter County Sheriff's Department


Use service with care

911 managers urge public to use service with care

June 15, 2009 By Jane Huh, Post-Tribune staff writer


As summer approaches, the Porter County Sheriff's Department is poised to respond to more 911 calls.

"As the thermometer rises, so does the activity level," said Porter County Sheriff David Lain. "Criminals are opportunists. They're out and about in the summertime."

So, especially now, the department is urging the public to help reduce the number of 911 hangups, misdials and false alarms; incidents that have been consistent, he said.

When it turns out there was no incident, it unnecessarily strains department resources and impacts response to urgent situations, local law enforcement officials say.

"It becomes a drain on the police department," said Crown Point Assistant Police Chief Jim Janda. "Over the course of the year, it adds up."

"It essentially puts the safety of officers and the public at risk," he said.

Common violations Porter County police deal with are traffic stops. From January to June there were 80 stops in Jackson Township.

But in the same five-month period there, police also responded to 58 false alarms and seven silent calls.

In Pine Township, from January to May, there were 115 traffic stops. During the same period, the department responded to 18 hangup calls and 20 false alarms.

And for each of those calls, it takes "two officers the amount of time to get to the residence to check things out and get back," Lain said.

The situation puts a "tremendous stress on what resources we have."

"Our department has not grown commensurate with the activity we need to respond to," Lain said. "Our people are busier than they've ever been."

The issue is not unique to Porter County. Similar calls come through the Lake County Sheriff's Department, said Lt. Mike Higgins.

It's an issue at every police department, he said. Like other police departments, Lake County has an ordinance that penalizes frequent false alarms.

But no matter the case, police must respond to all calls and check out the scene.

"We've had instances where the perpetrator was at the residence and made them hang up the phone," said Chesterton Police Chief George Nelson.

So far this year, the Chesterton Police Department has received 90 hangups, 40 misdials and 11 silent 911 calls out of its total 5,100 calls.

A large portion of 911 misdials occurs when numbers beginning with similar prefixes such as 921 or 916 are fumbled, Nelson said.

Generally, false alarms and accidental 911 calls are caused by human error, malfunctioning alarm systems and children playing with the phone.

"When we see a significant impact from things that are so preventable, it's frustrating to an administration," Lain said.

Fixing malfunctioning alarm systems or making sure children are not toying with the telephone are some preventable steps that help local law enforcement officials.

Whenever someone realizes an accidental call or false alarm went out, it's helpful to immediately call the department back to say it was a mistake.

"We're telling them to give us a courtesy call," Janda said.




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