News 5 Investigates

Jul 8, 2014 11:04 PM by Eric Ross

9-1-1 prank calls lead to arrests across the nation

Clogged 9-1-1 lines are putting callers with life-threatening emergencies on hold.

In Colorado Springs, we've learned some callers are waiting more than a minute for help.

Non-emergency and prank calls to 9-1-1 happen on a daily basis across the nation with cell phone technology and hidden caller ID apps.

While the calls may be funny, police get the last laugh.

Authorities in Tampa arrested Jason Honaker last year and charged him with 7 felonies for allegedly making more than 1,200 prank calls to 9-1-1.

In Tennessee, Hee Orama, 34, was arrested after calling 9-1-1 claiming her boyfriend refused to marry her.

Calls like these come as no surprise to Colorado Springs call taker Annie Springfield, a 15-year veteran.

"I have people call 9-1-1 to ask what the Broncos score is," she said. I have people calling 9-1-1 telling me they are making a cake and want to know how many tablespoons of flour to put in."

No matter what type of call comes in, dispatchers have to remain calm.

Take for instance this call received from a fast food restaurant chain:

CALLER: "She (the lady at Burger King) gave me another hamburger and it's wrong. I want my hamburger right."

DISPATCHER: "This is not a criminal issue. We can't go out there and make them make you a cheeseburger the way you want it."

CALLER: "Well you're supposed to be here to protect me."

DISPATCHER: "What are we protecting you from, a wrong cheeseburger?"

CALLER: "No."

DISPATCHER: "Is this a harmful cheeseburger or something? I don't understand what you want us to do?

"There's no way for us to know whether the call is real, accidental or a prank call," Public Safety Communications Manager Renee Henshaw said. "We have to answer that call as if it's an emergency."

Abusing the 9-1-1 system in Colorado Springs could result in a hefty fine.

"We can send officers out and cite them," Henshaw said.

As mentioned in our previous news article on 9-1-1 wait times, call takers encourage everyone to remain on the line and not hang up.

During certain times of the day, call takers handle a large volume of calls, and that can lead to delayed pick-up response times.

Anyone with a non-life threatening problem should call the non-emergency line at 444-7000.

 

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