Children tying up E911 with calls

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2005

Your child's prank could land you in jail.

That prank is using a discarded or old cellular telephone to dial 911 and Janice Stamps, E911 director, and area law enforcement are cracking down on this problem.

"The problem stems from all cell phones, regardless if you have service or not, can still be used to dial 911," Stamps said Monday afternoon.

"We've had several children calling us just playing with the phone.

These are calls that take us away from dealing with actual emergency calls."

Stamps said they just recently learned who one of their biggest troublemakers was and is now pursuing legal action.

"This young girl was calling us several times an hour," she said. "On an average day, we would log over 300 calls from her.

And because we did not have Phase II in place, we could not pinpoint her location."

Stamps said the girl would usually begin calling in the early morning hours and continue to call well into the night.

"It's like a game to her," she said.

"It took us a month to track her down, but we finally got the information we needed, and we are now going to prosecute."

She said the girl would call and when the operator would hang up, she would call back and use profane language, calling the operator a barrage of words.

"This is a stressful enough place in here, and we don't need her tying up lines that someone with an actual emergency could be calling in on," she said.

Stamps explained that the county is served by what are called trunks and that each trunk connects a portion of the county to the 911 center.

"There was one particular day that she had all eight trunks tied up," she said.

But now they've caught her, and Stamps said they will prosecute the parents of the child because under Alabama law, calling 911 as a prank is a felony.

Stamps said the Class-C felony will have charges of obstructing of government services with it and that it could carry fines as well as jail time if a person is convicted.

"The message we are sending is that this will not be tolerated," she said.

"We're not going after the children, but we will prosecute the adults who are not controlling their children.

This is too important.

What if someone in a very serious emergency called in?

In this case, we would be on the phone with this young girl while she plays her pranks.

No, this is not going to be tolerated any longer."