HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Is the wrong pizza topping really a reason to call 911? It happened in Hartford, Connecticut and it’s one of hundreds of other bogus 911 calls coming in from around the state.
Clayton E. Northgraves is the Director of Communications and has managed both the New Haven and Hartford Communication Centers. Hartford currently handles about 160,000 calls per year and about half of those are not emergencies. Like this call to 911, a woman wanting the police to step in when the pizza delivery guy got the wrong toppings on her pizza.
“I ordered a small pizza – half cheese and half bacon – and they bring me half hamburger, so I call them back and they don’t want to give my money back,” said the caller.
Dispatchers did send a police officer to meet the woman at the pizza shop. Deputy Chief Brian J. Foley of the Hartford Police Department says they have to send officers, just in case.
“Maybe a physical threat was made, maybe a verbal threat was made. Something along those lines we don’t know by the 911 call, so we did have to send an officer, finding out that it was no more than a complaint over the pizza service,” said Foley.
There are penalties for calling 911 when it’s not an emergency. But Foley says the people who pay the biggest price are the police officers, the firefighters, and the EMTs.
“We are a city that is strapped for resources, both here in the dispatch center and the police department. We are already short police officers as it is. We certainly don’t need to be tying up police officers with this sort of thing,” said Foley.
It also takes its toll on dispatchers. Northgraves says it can be a stressful job, with shootings and fires and car accidents coming in, and they have to weed out the pizza calls.
“A lot of times when people are tying up a 911 line, people are trying to get through. So we are trying to get them off the line as quickly as possible. We need to answer the calls for people who actually need emergency services,” said Northgraves.