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Reasons to Call the 911 or Police Dispatch

Jun 29, 2016 09:29AM ● Published by Kelly Cannon

By Kelly Cannon | kelly@mycityjournals.com

Cottonwood Heights

There are some instances when people know when to call the police such as a fire or someone is having a heart attack. Other times are trickier and people may hesitate because they don’t know if calling the police is necessary. On top of that, people don’t often know whether they need to call 911 or the non-emergency number for the police. Here is a handy guide that outlines when to call 911 and when to call for non-emergency numbers.


When to call 911:

1. A fire or heavy smoke that is suspicious. Many times, people worry that the smoke is a false alarm. Maybe someone accidently burned their dinner or a local farmer is doing a controlled burn of his crops. It doesn’t matter. It’s always better to call 911 if you see a fire or heavy smoke. Lives and property may be at risk.

2. Someone is forcing a child into a car. If you see someone trying to force a child into a car and the child is obviously in distress, immediately call 911. Take notice of the make, model and color of the car and the license plate if possible. Try to remember what the perpetrator looks like. These details will be vital if the child is being kidnapped.

3. A fight or domestic violence. Calling to break up a fight, especially if it’s domestic violence can be hard because people feel it’s either none of their business or they are over reacting. However, it’s always better to call than not. Someone’s life could be a risk and if the situation is domestic violence, the victim needs help and resources.

4. Gunshots. This one seems pretty self explanatory. When you hear gun shots, call 911. If you can, try to identify where the location of the gunshots came from.

5. Burglar alarm or glass breaking. While car alarms can go off for any number of reasons, burglar alarms in homes or other buildings only go off when someone has gone inside who is not allowed to go inside. Likewise, there are very few reasons why a person should have to break a window to gain access into a building.


When to call the non-emergency number:

1. Someone is looking into vehicles, walking in and out of backyards or loitering on private property. While some people may hesitate to contact the police because they don’t want to be a nosey neighbor, these are suspicious behaviors. However, unless there is immediate danger, calling the non-emergency number is best.

2. Someone is approaching doors and asking unusual questions or soliciting without proper purpose or valid license. If someone you don’t know comes to your door to sell something, they typically have to carry with them a license or identification of some kind. If they don’t have that or if the questions they ask are suspicious, such as asking where your neighbors are or when you think they should be back, close and lock your door and call the non-emergency number.

3. A home in your neighborhood has constant, short-term traffic, with people coming and going at all hours. Again, there are very few reasons why a home should have this kind of traffic, especially at all hour of the day or night. A single party is one thing but this type of constant traffic is suspicious and should be reported.

4. You see older children intimidating younger ones. As long as the children are in no immediate danger, calling the non-emergency number is appropriate.

5. Any circumstance that is not “normal” for your neighborhood. You know your neighborhood. You know what a regular occurrence is and what is not. Don’t be afraid to alert the police if something feels off.  λ

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