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911 Hang Ups Are No Joke To Pleasantville Police

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – Consider this: The Pleasantville police 911 dispatcher picks up a call and there’s no answer on the other end.

The dispatcher calls the number back to ask if there is an emergency. No one picks up. What should the police do?

A 911 hang up may be an emergency or may be a mistake. Either way, Pleasantville Police Lt. Erik Grutzner said police have to respond. Hang ups happen more often than people think and they cost local police departments time and money.

“I don’t think people realize as soon as they hang up we have to actually start looking back and making sure there isn't anything to be concerned about,” Grutzner said.

Grutzner said the department has had 41 hang ups since Jan. 1 where an officer was sent on a house visit. While many of the calls turn out to be misdials or children playing with the phone, he said the department cannot afford to make that assumption.

“The worst case scenario is always someone manages to get the 911 call in but can’t vocalize what the problem is,” he said.

Westchester’s area code, 914, is just one digit away from the universal emergency number, but that may not be a factor in the large number of misplaced 911 calls, said Kieran O'Leary, Westchester County Police spokesperson. However, the telephone system in local businesses may play a factor.

“At some businesses, in order to make an outgoing phone call, you need to dial the number nine first, then the number one, and then the ten-digit number you want to call,” O’Leary said. “So naturally people dial the first two numbers and accidentally hit the one twice.”

Instead of panicking and hanging up, Grutzner said valuable police resources could be saved if callers would simply stay on the line and admit to making the error.

“I think everybody has been so programmed to realize the 911 system is for emergencies only, that as soon as they accidentally call they want to get off the line as quickly as possible,” he said. “It’s far simpler if somebody just says ‘I’m sorry, my mistake. It was misdial.’ ”

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