911 Abuse Costs Taxpayers Millions

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(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


  • Long Gone

    Who to say what is an emergency? You come home find your door kicked in. Is that an emergency or not? Your son cuts himself and is bleeding. Is that one? If someone is chasing your wife across your yard is that one?
    Print a list lets see

    • CommonSense

      Emergency services should be called when life is in danger or if there is a possibility that life could be in danger.

  • Mary

    I would like to know what they do consider an emergency. I came home one day about a month or so ago and found my front door wide open. It was still locked too. But that is not an emergency? Someone had obviously opened my front door and could have still been in the house when I got here. To me that is an emergency. I could have gone inside and risked running into some idiot with a gun. CommonSense wrote that “Emergency services should be called when life is in danger or if there is a possibly that life could be in danger.” If I had entered my home and whoever broke in was still in there (which it turned out they were not and nothing had been taken so evidently my dog scared them off) I could have been shot and killed. But because nobody was in the house when the police got here it was not an emergency and I should not have called 911. Really? So if that happens again I just go inside and call the non emergency number and pray huh? Nice system we have here. Somebody please explain to me… what is considered an emergency exactly? Anybody? Cause I sure as heck thought my call was an emergency

    • James

      Get use to it citizens. As the budget shrinks for police and fire, so will your level of services. Don’t call the police for dog calls, alarm calls, non – injury accidents, and even burglaries. The good citizens of Memphis wanted to cut the budget, now you are going to suffer a loss in services. Good Job!!!

  • KaTornioaus

    Dis be tha nah wah wah? Mmm-hmm now listen, KFC already done be out of churkin and now I goes to the Scrub way and they give me this muranura sauce, when I aksed for the pizza sauce, for real. So y’all send them poleeses over hera right now, cause this be off the dang chain. It be a emergency.

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