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The information provided above is only a generalized description of 911 misuse and abuse. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Carefully analyzing your problem will help you design a more effective response strategy.
The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular 911 misuse and abuse problem, even if the answers are not always readily available. To accurately assess the magnitude of the problem, you may find that you must refine how your dispatch center records certain call types. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.
Police communications centers use nature codes to classify incoming 911 calls.
The Loves Park 911 center determined, through analysis, that an increase in landline hang-ups between 1993 and 1994 was due to their phone company's switching all city calls, other than those to 911, from analogue to digital. (With analogue calls, there is a pause before the phone rings.) Many 911 callers, now accustomed to hearing an immediate ring, were assuming the pause meant their call did not go through, and were hanging up before a 911 operator answered. The 911 center's supervisor asked the phone company to replace the pause with a false ring, and 911 hang-ups subsequently dropped to previous levels.
Many local and state laws that address 911 misuse and abuse may require revision to cover all aspects of the problem.
For example, the Framingham, Mass. Police Department's website (http://framinghampd.org/) contains this message: "If you dial 911 by accident, do not hang up the phone, all hang-ups on 911 must have police and or fire dispatched to the location to check on the call. Accidents happen, stay on and tell the operator it was an error."
Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)
The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to 911 misuse and abuse:
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