I-TEAM

You Paid For It: Abusing 911 put lives at risk

CREATED Feb 6, 2013

  • Print
  • Video by wtmj.com

    Play

MILWAUKEE - Bogus calls to 911 dispatch. These calls tie up dispatchers with the craziest of requests. The I-Team discovered calls like that happen all the time, and you paid for it.

When you need help fast you dial 9-1-1, but what if you had to wait because rescue workers are dealing with bogus calls? That's just part of the price of 9-1-1 pranks.

It was a cold and snowy December day. One that Trish Fry will never forget.

"He thought it was just heart burn," she remembers. "Oh my God, his face. He was so pale and he was basically shaking." It turned out her husband was having a heart attack. "I immediately picked up the phone and dialed 911."

Some people go their entire life never having to call 911. Trish used it to save her husband's life, and then a few months later she used it to save her own. "I had hit the back of my chair, and it had torn open my entire surgical site." Trish believes the quick response is why she and her husband are still alive.

But what if those resources were not available? What if emergency crews were tied up by nonsense calls? Calls that end up costing you money. And there are people that take advantage of the system. People like Aiesha Jackson. According to police she called 911 to get out of a ticket. A trick police say she pulled seven times, and each time costs you money. Anywhere from $150 to $250 a call.

The I-Team sat down with Captain Ron Oremus with the Waukesha Police Department to discuss this expensive issue.

"That is taxpayer money going towards us going to a bogus 911 call," he said.

So we did the math. Seven prank calls just to get out of traffic tickets adds up to $1500 of your tax dollars. Aiesha Jackson was fined more than $650, but the I-Team discovered that's just the beginning.

911 hang ups are common at the dispatch center in Waukesha County. They send emergency crews to every one of those calls to make sure everything is okay.
Protocol and the safe thing to do.

What's not safe, is this:
Dispatch: "This is 911 what is the emergency?"
Caller: "This is not actually an emergency. I tried your non-emergency number but nobody answered."

The I-Team crunched the numbers. Waukesha County Dispatch gets about 200 calls a day. At least two of those calls are bogus. 32 of them are accidental. That's a total of 12,410 calls that cost you about 3.7 million dollars a year.

And there is more at stake than your money when it comes to fake 911 calls. Captain Oremus points out, "the risk to not only the officers driving in emergency fashion, the community is also at risk. It's something that we have to consider as we drive, and we don't want to up those risks anymore than we need to."

And by calling 911 without a real emergency, you never know who may be waiting who desperately needs help.

The woman charged with making bogus 911 calls to get out of traffic tickets is now on probation.