Public Safety

Is Your 911 Call a Priority?

Author: Ed Gilgor

The only way that police are dispatched in the City of Atlanta is through the 911 Operator. For everything from the most serious crime in progress to reporting a crime that has already occurred, the 911 Operator is the person you call. To report a car that are illegally parked in a crosswalk, on a sidewalk or within fifteen feet of either side of a fire hydrant, call 911. If you see suspicious activity, call 911 to report it. If it turns out to be nothing, then the officer who is dispatched will rapidly make this determination and move on. However, you may prevent a crime by making a call to 911. By the same token, failure to report suspicious activity, may have the opposite result. So if you are in doubt, err on the side of caution and call 911. As will be discussed in detail below, police officers are dispatched based on the priority of the call. So you need not fear that a police officer will allow a crime to occur in order to respond to a suspicious activity call. The following "Call Priority Policy" is used by the Atlanta Police Department in their 911 Call Center:

These are calls where the immediate presence of the police is essential to have life, prevent serious injury, or to arrest a violent felon. These calls may require an immediate response from any available unit regardless of assignment. These calls include:
? Violent felonies in progress.
? Help calls for police officers.
? Catastrophes such as rioting and looting, fires and explosions, and severe storms and floods
? Dispatch will be immediate.

Calls where the immediate presence of the police may save life, prevent serious injury, prevent major property loss, or lead to the arrest of a felon. These calls require an immediate response from any available unit. These calls include:
? Any imminent threat to life or great danger nor serious physical injury or major property damage.
? Any active felony or violent crime that may result in serious injury or major progress damage.
? Any recent felony or violent crime where the probability exists that a suspect may be apprehended.
? Any Serious injury where an officer can render immediate aid.
? Any incident, which in the opinion of the 9l l operator, demands an immediate police response, such as snipers, threat of an explosive device or chemical leak, or other hazardous materials.
? Any traffic accident that involves death, serious injury, hit and run, or impairment of the driver of a motor vehicle due to alcohol or drugs.
? Dispatch will be made within two minutes.

These calls require the presence of the police but do not meet the criteria for Priority 2:
? Any active incident that does not present a significant threat to life or property, such as minor domestic disputes or a fight that does not involve weapons.
? Any active incident that could involve a crime, such as suspicious person or vehicle.
? Any traffic accident that involves property damage to public vehicles or property, major traffic congestion as a result of the accident, or a disturbance between those involved in the accident.
? Any inactive crime scene where evidence may be lost or destroyed or where witnesses might leave before they can be interviewed.
? Dispatch will be made within ten minutes.

Those calls that require the presence of police, but time is not critical.
? Any non-active felony, misdemeanor, or other incident that does not require an immediate investigation, such as a property crime that was not recently committed or information for an officer.
? Any motor vehicle accident that involves property damage, but does not represent a hazard to traffic.
? Any non-criminal incident, such as parking violations, traffic services, or escorts.
? Any other incident that is not active and cannot, because of its nature, be transferred to an outside agency or to teleserve for handling by telephone.
? Any call where a citizen has recovered property.
? Officers may be dispatched on priority l, 2 and 3 calls if they are currently on a priority 4 call.
? Supervising Officers will be dispatched on priority l, 2 and 3 calls if time limitations outlined are about to expire and there are no units on priority 4 calls to be dispatched.

These calls can be handled by telephone: most larcenies, larceny from auto, larceny of auto pans, lost or stolen checks and credit cards, lost property; abandoned vehicles, harassing, obscene, and threatening phone calls; indecent exposures where the suspect is not still on the scene; vandalism and supplemental reports (example: additional stolen property). If an officer has been flagged down and is already on the scene, he or she will not transfer responsibility for the call to Teleserve.

Important Facts to Bear in Mind when calling 911:

? When the operator first comes on the line listen to see which of the many 911 Services responded to your call. Particularly if you are using a cell phone, it is not uncommon for Fulton County, DeKalb County or even Clayton County’s 911 Service to respond to a call made in NPU-W. If this happens, ask to be transferred to City of Atlanta 911. City of Atlanta 911 operators are trained to answer calls by saying “Police Emergency Operator” and then give their operator number. If you have any questions about which 911 service has answered your call, immediately ask for clarification as to which 911 Service you are speaking with and immediately request a transfer if appropriate.
? If a City of Atlanta 911 Operator fails to give you their operator number when they initially speak with you, ask the 911 operator for his or her number.
? If you have any problems with the 911 operator, you should try to resolve them if that is possible. Remember that whatever the operator says to you and whatever you say to the operator is are recorded. However, if you are not able to rapidly resolve the issue with the operator, ask to speak to the operator’s supervisor.
? If during the course of your call you get the feeling that the operator does not seem to be taking you seriously or that the operator does not believe that the matter you are calling about is appropriate for a 911 call, ask the operator to for the 911 Call Number. For every 911 call made, a unique identifying number, known as the Call Number or Log Number, is assigned. By getting that number you will be a position to call 911 back if necessary to determine whether your call was properly dispatched and you will indicate to the 911 operator that you will be keeping track of what happens with this call.
? If you call 911 and no officer responds, call back and ask for the status of your call and ask when an officer will be dispatched. If the operator cannot give you a time or if you believe that the presence of an officer is imperative, ask for the Supervisor for that Beat to respond to the call. This means that a Supervisor, usually a Sergeant or Lieutenant, will be given the call. The Supervisor should rapidly respond to such a call.
? You NEVER have to give out identifying information about yourself to the operator. If you are asked for such information, politely, but firmly, tell the operator that you wish to remain anonymous.
? It is NEVER necessary to agree to speak with the responding officer in order to place a 911 Call.
? Remember that even though you are still speaking to the operator, a call is being sent out before he or she hangs up.
? The allocation of police resources on a city-wide basis is largely determined by the overall number of 911 calls made from a given area. Consequently, there is no such thing as a matter too trivial to call 911 about. Every call counts toward determining the amount of resources the APD allocates to your neighborhood.
? Please refer any complaints that you have with either the 911 operator or the responding officer, you should contact the Zone Commander. In the case of a 911 operator complaint, request that the Major secure a copy of the 911 call you made and listen to the tape with you. If the complaint involves the conduct of an officer, request that the Major investigate the matter and then contact you with the results of his investigation. You should also report any complaints and the response of the Atlanta Police Department to the NPU-W Public Safety Committee at [email protected]

This document is available as a pdf file on the East Atlanta Community Association Website If anyone has any corrections, questions, suggests, or comments please email Ed Gilgor. Note: Article reprinted with permission of Mr. Gilgor. 
Public Safety