911 fed up with prank phone calls

911 fed up with prank phone calls

LAWTON, Okla._It happens every summer when the kids are out of school, and the Comanche County dispatch center says it is fed up with prank phones calls.

The center says they average about one prank call a day, but it is no laughing matter. They say every prank call is handled like an emergency, keeping officers, fire fighters and EMTs from working on real emergencies.

If a call comes in on a cell phone, and it's short, police only have a callback number and a general location to work with. In some cases, that could mean combing through an entire block. Finding out who owns the phone would take a warrant.

It's a lot for one prank call like the one dispatch responded to Monday where a woman called in a fake shooting involving her husband.

Caller: My husband, he just got shot!
Dispatch: Ok, I'm going to help you.
Caller: That man just shot my husband!
Dispatch: Ok, I'm going to help you.
Caller: Help me!
Dispatch: What is the address again, so I can get help to you?

A serious call like this has dispatch immediately sending officers to the scene, but only to find no victim and no caller.

"Anything that takes an officer off the street for not a valid reason is just unacceptable," said Derrell Morgan, supervisor for the emergency communications division.

Morgan says these prank calls can mean officers are off the street for around 45 minutes and at times, Lawton may only have 10 officers out on patrol.

"Lawton has 100,000 people, so if you've only got eight officers because two are out on a prank call, probably those other eight are on something else," Morgan said.

That causes a backlog on low priority calls that can add up through the day.

"Like right now, today we've got larceny calls that have been holding since noon," Morgan explained.

That means citizens waiting for hours to file a report, and a bigger stress load on officers.

"The officers know that I'm going call to call as quickly as I possibly can, and I know I've got 10 more calls waiting that I'm not going to be able to get to until it slows down enough for me to get caught up," Morgan said.

Morgan says a lot of these prank calls are coming from kids, and parents need to be looking out for that, especially during the summer when they have more free time. He says if it kid wants to make a prank call, prank a friend, not 911.

If you are cited for misuse of the emergency call service, you can face a misdemeanor that comes with a punishment of a fine and even jail time.