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Cops: Program Local Dispatch Into Phones

POSTED February 16, 2011 1:00 a.m.

In case of an emergency, call 911 — it’s ingrained in people — but what happens when you need an officer, such as the case with theft or a suspicious person lurking around your property, what number do you dial then?

Sgt. Kerri Redd with the Oakdale Police Department, has the answer: your local police station.

“If there is an emergency where you need an ambulance, call 911 but if it’s less than life threatening, call the local office. Program the local police office into your phone. It’s a benefit to our city that we have our own 24-hour dispatch center. You limit yourself by not having that number programmed into your phone.”

One of two things will happen when you dial 911 in the Oakdale area from a landline. Depending on your physical location, the call will either go to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) dispatch center in Merced before it’s rerouted to the appropriate responding agency, or it will go to the Oakdale dispatch center.

“Having to go through a whole separate dispatch center before it comes to Oakdale can waste valuable time,” Redd said.

And time is valuable, particularly when a crime is in progress or when a dispatcher is trying to prioritize the calls coming in.

“I’ve talked with the Merced dispatch center and they’ve told me that 911 calls that aren’t true emergencies takes away from them listening to calls that are actual emergencies. They’ve had a real problem with that. Sometimes they get totally backed up.”

Another issue is many people today have ditched their landline all together for their cell phones, believing having both is redundant.

Except a cell phone 911 call will, more times than not, go to the Merced CHP dispatch.

Another issue is 911 hang-ups, Redd said.

“Unless the latitude and longitude comes up, we don’t know where the call came from,” Redd explained of dropped 911 calls from a cell phone. “Sometimes we’re driving around looking for the caller in the area that the call originated (from) but they’re long gone because they made the call from the car and it pinged from that location, at that moment.”

Also, the latitude and longitude will only pop up if the cell phone is equipped with GPS, which most pay-per-use (or disposable) phones are not.

Times are changing, but people’s needs remain the same. Do yourself a favor and program the local dispatch number into your phone, said Redd.

“The local dispatchers are going to give your issues priority because they’re in the same community,” Redd said.

Also, teach your children the local number or show them how to reach the police station by using the speed dial once you’ve programmed the number into the home phone or cell.

The phone number for the local station is 847-2231.

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