Making Fake 9-1-1 Calls: A Lose-Lose Situation

Published on: 1/18/2013

At first, the 33 year-old Waukesha woman thought she was being very clever. Now, she finds herself facing up to 180 days in jail and a $600 fine for placing a series of false emergency phone calls to police dispatchers.

The woman, Aisha R. Jackson, was charged with seven counts of placing a false emergency call. On each occasion, Jackson had been pulled over for traffic violations and would then dial 9-1-1 to report a major crime in progress. The officers would leave the traffic stop scene only to arrive at bogus crime scenes where there was nobody around.

This kind of story is, to me, just unbelievable. Whatever happened to the days of taking personal responsibility for one’s actions and just taking your lumps when you’ve done something wrong? Am I asking an “old school” question here, harkening back to a “simpler time” in our history? Of course. Still, you’d like to believe that this type of moral outlook on personal responsibility still exists to a strong degree.

The issue here is that the 9-1-1 system has one main purpose: to assist people in the community in their time of need. It could be for fire, rescue, EMS, and, of course, law enforcement and protection from the dangers of criminal activity. Calls that abuse the

9-1-1 system siphon precious time from those who are sworn to protect the public. The abusers have very selfish and often nonsensical or illegal reasons for diverting these precious emergency services.

Every minute or second that law enforcement or other emergency personnel have to waste in responding to these types of calls amounts to time and money that could have been used to help other people who are truly in need.

If you’ve ever contemplated making a fake 9-1-1 call, just keep in mind that, if you were sitting in a ditch, bleeding after a car crash, how sickening it would be to find out that the precious few law enforcement personnel in the area couldn’t respond to your needs immediately because they were responding to a robbery call that turned out to be a hoax by a woman trying to avoid a speeding ticket. People need to realize the ramifications of this, not only from a criminal perspective but also understanding that abusing 9-1-1 can put other lives in danger.

Besides the danger of interfering with the process of assisting with real emergencies and all of the wasted time and energy caused by frivolous 911 calls, there is the tremendous feeling of frustration that the emergency responders are subjected to. Dispatchers are very well-trained to remain calm in circumstances that the average person would most likely lose control. These people are trained when someone is screaming into the phone about a loved one who’s not breathing or has a different medical emergency to calmly assist people to react in a way that will benefit the caller that’s in the middle of that emergency.

The Jackson case is certainly a prime example of someone brazenly exploiting 9-1-1 to skirt personal responsibility, in this instance, getting a speeding ticket. But you can also imagine the frustration of these highly trained emergency personnel being bothered with frivolous calls like a pizza not being delivered on time or a complaint that someone was “unfriended” on Facebook. You just can’t make up this kind of idiocy! Nonsensical 9-1-1 calls are often made by people who are intoxicated. Unfortunately, when two people are involved in a drunken argument and one of them calls 9-1-1, it’s very difficult for the dispatcher to know immediately whether there is a legitimate emergency and the emergency response must be made.

The 9-1-1 system is an invaluable service and it is clearly there in case of an emergency. Accidents. Threats of danger or violence. Fights. When you dial 9-1-1, make sure you are clear that there is an actual emergency you wish to report. Dispatchers are very clear about this when they answer the call. They will ask if this is an emergency and if anybody is hurt. Be very clear in your response. This doesn’t mean you should not call 911 in the case of a minor accident. When in doubt, always contact law enforcement.

In short, don’t be afraid to dial 9-1-1 with a legitimate emergency to report. Anytime there is a concern for safety or someone is hurt or injured, make the call. But don’t ever think that by calling 9-1-1 in order to get yourself out of trouble that it will somehow be a wise choice. Misuse of 9-1-1 will only result in criminal charges and the very real possibility that you are responsible for putting somebody else’s life in danger.