Tampa police educating public about when to call 911 - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa police educating public about when to call 911

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Tampa police are trying to inform the public about their non-emergency line. Tampa police are trying to inform the public about their non-emergency line.
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) - A woman complaining about a waffle. A man whose key fob won't open his car. A woman who tripped and fell over a piece of wire at an apartment complex.

They might seem like phone calls you'd make to a friend or to a consumer hotline, but Tampa Police say those are the kind of calls that come into the 911 system on a consistent basis.

"There's limited resources," said Donovan Maginnis, a Communications Supervisor at Tampa Police 911 dispatch center. "The more there are - it means that someone with an actual emergency could have to wait because we've got a 911 call where we're trying to explain something that's not an emergency."

Tampa Police estimate about half of the calls coming in on 911 aren't emergencies.  On Facebook, the department is now posting some of the more memorable calls, hoping to catch attention and have people program the non-emergency number, 813-231-6130, into their cell phones.

"It's never a problem for us to educate someone when they do call, but if they know it's not an emergency it just kind of saves us a step," Maginnis said. "It saves them a step too because they're just going to end up dialing another number."

In the first phone call mentioned above, a woman used the 911 system to call and complain about a waffle at a Village Inn restaurant in Tampa.

"They gave me some raw waffles," she says in the 911 call from January 30. "You sold me something that was uncooked. I'm already paying for the whole waffles that was already uncooked."

Donovan Maginnis, who has taken and supervised many of those calls, says dispatchers try to help out as best they can to calm even a civil matter.

"People who call that are frustrated - we're kind of someone who's just listening. So they're able to call and get someone to listen. A lot of times they're frustrated with something," he said. "If you can calm a situation, end it and they don't call back then kind of everybody wins."

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