From last night’s meeting of the West Seattle Blockwatch Captains Network: Advice you can use even if you’re not a Block Watch captain – how and why to call 911. The advice came from an expert: Southwest Precinct Community Police Team Officer Jonathan Kiehn. His explanation included the best thing you can do once the dispatcher answers the phone. Read on:
WHEN TO CALL 911: As Officer Kiehn put it, you know your neighborhood, you know what looks suspicious, and if you see something suspicious, call 911.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THE DISPATCHER ANSWERS: The most critical thing you can do when you call 911 is to first state your name, then state the reason you’re calling, and stop. At that point, he said, you should let the 911 dispatcher ask questions; too often, people feel they have to give as much info as possible right off the bat. He said this slows the process – a dispatcher can get officers assigned to your call even while still gathering information from you.
WHAT KIND OF INFORMATION TO SHARE: The physical description of any person/people involved, plus a license-plate number, are among the most important information the dispatcher needs.
HOW 911 CALLS ARE PRIORITIZED: By the level of immediate danger.
Officer Kiehn also explained some not-so-well-known aspects of the role of the Community Police Team officer (he is one of two currently assigned to that role in the SWP, which also provides police service for South Park). Often, he says, they wind up dealing with people who don’t need police so much as another city agency. Also, every neighborhood tends to have certain locations that result in more police calls than others; his job includes tracking what happens in those places and interacting with the officers who respond to those calls, so there’s an accessible history that enables any officer responding to those locations to not always be starting from square one. (The department’s official explanation is online here.)
Also from the meeting:
ACTION ITEMS: The West Seattle Blockwatch Captains Network will focus on one of these every month, so that captains can take them back to their neighborhoods for special emphasis. For November: Car prowls. Earlier in the meeting, Officer Kiehn noted that criminals learn from what ordinary people do – if you leave things in your car, you teach the bad guys that your neighborhood could be a good place to steal from cars, but if you work to make a neighborhood a bad place to be a bad guy, they’ll move on. (Here’s the online SPD advice about preventing/discouraging car prowls.)
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