Bogus 911 calls clogging dispatch centers

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VAIL, Colo. — A New Castle woman is facing charges for making a bogus 911 call in Gypsum last month.  Eagle County sheriff’s deputies said Christina Dickson locked herself inside a liquor store and called 911 to say the place was being robbed by armed gunmen.

On the call Dickson can be heard telling the dispatcher, “There’s someone that came into the liquor store possibly with a gun, looking for me and I`m in a closet. ”

Multiple deputies and state troopers showed up only to find a false alarm.  Dickson later admitted to being high on meth.

A FOX31 Denver investigation found 911 communication centers are being overwhelmed with nonemergency calls.

“Anytime anybody`s life is in danger that’s a 911 emergency, other things are not so much,” said Jennifer Kirkland, the operations support supervisor for Vail’s Public Safety Communications Center.

Kirkland shared numerous 911 calls with FOX31 that were clearly not emergencies. One person called looking for a cab.

“I really just need a ride home,  uh, I’m lost and I don’t know where the f** I am,” said a drunk male caller.

Another woman called needing pest control.

“My house is filled with mosquitoes. I don`t know what to do, I need help,” she said.

Perhaps the most outrageous call came from an impatient skier, stalled on a chairlift, who insisted dispatchers send a helicopter to rescue his family.

“I think it’s a number that people know and they know that it’s staffed 24/7 and they know that they’re going to get help no matter what they call in,” Kirkland said.

Besides silly calls, dispatchers say they’re overwhelmed with pocket dials, which accounted for 36 percent of all 911 calls in Eagle County in 2014.

“Then we call each and every pocket dial back, speak to the person and ask a series of questions to ensure that they’re not being held against their will or being made to say that they’re OK when they’re not,” Kirkland said.

We also visited the 911 communication center in Lakewood where dispatcher Gina Gonzales said half of the 911 calls received on a daily basis are nonemergencies.

“We`re just getting bogged down with the pocket dials and the misuse of 911 which could possibly lead to a delay in service,” Gonzales said.

Some states like Tennessee and Georgia have passed laws making bogus 911 calls a crime.  Tennessee has even collected more than $400,000 in fines.

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