911 managers urge public to
use service with care
June 15, 2009 By Jane Huh, Post-Tribune
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
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,"
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
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
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.