911 Abuse Costs Taxpayers Millions

(Memphis) People calling 911 for non-emergencies is costing taxpayers millions each year and putting lives at risk.

Every day, 911 dispatchers in Memphis receive dozens of non-emergency calls. People call to report bogus shootings, minor injuries and even ask for the weather forecast.

Just last month, one man called 911 to report a robbery against Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies when the ball was stolen from him during a playoff game.

Memphis Police Department Communications Supervisor Sean Lovejoy says, “All too often we get people playing on the phone, disconnected cell phones, kids playing on the phone, people calling for non-911 issues and that does tie up the system quite a bit.”

The City of Memphis says dispatchers handled 230,000 non-emergency calls in 2013 alone. That does not include hundreds of thousands of 911 hang-up calls.

Emergency responders cannot ignore calls for help even for non-emergency requests. If someone asks for police, fire or ambulance service, dispatchers will send someone.

Memphis Fire Department Director Alvin Benson said, “If you call us for a stubbed toe, your grandmother perhaps won’t have us available for a heart attack.”

When the fire department responds to a bogus call, it costs the city roughly $250. When police respond, it costs roughly $90.

Even though there is no official total amount spent on abusive 911 calls, it can easily reach into the millions given the overall call volume.

Dispatchers say the best way to ensure emergency responders are available when you need them is to only call 911 for true emergencies.

Non-emergency numbers for agencies in Shelby County:

Bartlett Police: 385-5555
Collierville Police: 853-3207
Germantown Police: 754-7222
Memphis Fire: 458-8281
Memphis Police: 545-2677
Millington Police: 872-3333
Shelby County Fire: 379-7070
Shelby County Sheriff: 379-7625