When to call 9-1-1

This is a question often asked and debated – in meetings, on list serves and on street corners.  After much thought, I decided to take a little time and put this question to people I thought would know the answer.  I spoke with representatives from the police department, TWIS, and some people who do security.  Then I took it one step further and checked out what is on the web. 

Unfortunately, I got really great responses, but they contradicted each other:   
    “You should only call the police if you want them to come out.”
    “You should call the police when you see a crime taking place.”

 “You should call the police when you feel you are in danger.”
    “You should call the police when you see something or someone suspicious.”

When I presented them with scenarios that have taken place in our neighborhood and asked again, “should they have called the police?” the answer changed to: “You might not want to call the police on that, but it is worth taking note of it in case you need it for the future.” 

Well, with all this there was only one conclusion that I could stand behind:  Calling the police is a personal decision.  I too have questioned whether some things are worth a call to the police.  That question bothered me the most.  What I view as suspicious may or may not be what someone else views as suspicious.  It is the gray areas that make us question whether we should call. 

So after that, I looked at it another way.  I tried hard to recall all the times I personally have called the police.  I have never been too fond of the color gray, so I try to stay away from the gray things and look for the black and white.  I can say that I probably have called the police at least 20 times in my life.  The funny thing is that when I called 911 no one ever said “Hi Heather, it’s you again, what is it now!”   I was never asked “Why are you calling us?”  I was never told “Don’t bother giving me your location – I know where you live since you call so much.”  However, I was asked “What is your emergency?” – which is the standard question.  On some occasions I don’t recall even giving my name – they just wanted to know what was my emergency.

Call me a rebel, but I don’t mind taking chances, especially if the odds are in my favor.  If I call the police the worst that will happen is that they will come.  That’s not so bad – it‘s why I called.  It’s not like they charge you $29.99 for coming.  Some people feel that if the police are outside your door the neighbors might talk.  Well, the rebel in me says, let them talk. I can explain it later – or not. 

Finally, I visited a police department website, and my mind became settled.  There was my question.  The answer was simple: Let the police determine the importance.  With that little statement, I can now sleep.  The rebel in me says, “Hey, I’ll give you the information, what you do with it is up to you.” 

However, I will call the police for the following:

  • A person that exhibits unusual behavior, looks out of place, loitering, soliciting odd services
  • A person looking into vehicles or checking the door handles
  • Someone looking into windows of houses
  • A vehicle that keeps driving slowly around the neighborhood or block
  • A car sitting in place for too long
  • A person running from a home for no apparent reason
  • Screams, gun shots, glass breaking

This is the option that I can only hope you will choose when in doubt.  You will always be able to find someone to debate with you on whether you should or shouldn’t call the police, and you will find someone to agree with your final decision.  If concerned, you can take the time to check out or the many other web sites, on when to call 911.  I hope it will help you get a better understanding of what your options are in a sticky situation and how to avoid them.  Still, the final decision will be yours and yours alone.  Whatever you decide, make your decision so that you can look at yourself in the mirror and know you made the right decision based on that situation.  

And if there is ever a day that I dial 911 and they say, “Hey Heather, you’re calling us again?”  I will let you know.  Until then I’m calling when in doubt.

By Karoline

Mac home consultant and art quiltmaker.

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