West Seattle Crime Prevention Council: 911 explained, and more

From tonight’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting at the Southwest Precinct: As previewed earlier, the leader of SPD’s 911 center was the marquee guest, and the two-dozen-plus turnout was bigger than usual. What he had to say, coming up – but first, a few West Seattle crime notes: Overall, Lt. Steve Paulsen said, car prowls and burglaries jumped back up in January after a relatively quiet December, perhaps weather-related: 147 car prowls, more than 50 burglaries. But he also noted that police have no control over what happens after they’ve made an arrest, recapping the 14 burglary arrests made in the last couple months of the year – with 13 of those suspects back on the streets now. Meantime, the precinct is taking a new community-policing-focused tack with burglaries, having detectives call or visit all burglary victims who file reports, to follow up and to introduce themselves. One more crime note: Lt. Paulsen says last month’s stabbing incident near Riverview Playfield (covered here) was not random; some concerned neighbors were in attendance hoping to find out more about that. (And if you’re wondering, no new information about the unsolved shooting death of Steve Bushaw in The Junction on February 1st.) Now, on to the 911 explanation:

Lt. Greg Schmidt leads 911 for SPD. He repeated what you’ve read here before: Don’t hesitate to call 911 if you see a crime, or think something suspicious is happening now; just call. (That’s even the official advice on the SPD webpage.)

First, some statistics:

*Last year, the 911 center got approximately 846,000 calls (read more about the center here).

*About 40 percent came from standard land-line phones, the rest from cell phones. Last year, one half of one percent came from Internet voice services such as Vonage.

*Goal for each operator: Spend between 60 and 90 seconds on any given call.

*97 percent of all calls are answered by an operator within 2 seconds.

*1.5 complaints, on average, are received each day about the operators.

Now, as for the gist of those complaints:

Crime Prevention Council leaders first contacted him to investigate complaints about 911 dispatchers allegedly being rude or curt. If that happens, Lt. Schmidt said, file a complaint, which can be done with the Customer Service Bureau, SPD’s complaint system (form here), or the mayor’s office. When complaints come in, they’re forwarded to him to review. It’s up to him to determine whether the caller was treated with the proper “dignity and respect,” and if not, he makes the call on whether the employee is disciplined. Again, the key words: “dignity and respect” for those who call to report a problem.

The most frequent complaints, he said, come from people reporting crimes that someone else already has called in. The operators already have the information and are listening for any additional details, but that can come off as impatient or rude, he acknowledged.

But again, he said, if you see something suspicious, call. Even if you’re not sure it’s guaranteed 911 fodder – let the 911 people sort it out – that’s their job.

For specifics on the best way to present information when you call 911, check out this page on the SPD website.

The West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meets the third Tuesday of each month, 7 pm, Southwest Precinct, and you are always welcome.

9 Replies to "West Seattle Crime Prevention Council: 911 explained, and more"

  • Robert2715 February 18, 2009 (6:00 am)

    I noticed on the bus they are running ads for “10 digit dialing” and this somehow helps the 911 system – anyone got an explanation for that?

  • jsrekd February 18, 2009 (7:16 am)

    I think those ads are to make sure folks aren’t using 911 for “information.” You’d be surprised how many people use 911 to ask: directions, time of day, phone numbers to city agencies (not SPD related), etc. Personally, I think the ads are confusing. IIRC they’re put out by the E-911 program. Which oversees ALL 911 funding, etc. for the county/state. and, yes, I used to be a dispatcher.

  • lina February 18, 2009 (8:55 am)

    i have found those ads a little confusing…i thought i was just slow on the uptake.

  • J February 18, 2009 (10:30 am)

    I am curious about the 13 of 14 arrested suspects now “back out on the street”. To my layperson’s ear, this sounds quite high, but perhaps it is quite normal. I can imagine many reasons why this might be so: Perhaps the people arrested were actually the criminals, but there was insufficient evidence to jail them? Perhaps they were actually innocent, and arrested in error? Perhaps they were convicted, but the sentences are very light, or they are out on parole? Is more detail available?

  • WSB February 18, 2009 (10:41 am)

    I am familiar with a few of the cases. It takes a while for things to get to trial, and bail is rarely high enough for a “nonviolent” offense to keep a suspect in jail till they are tried (or reach a plea deal).

    For example, we have been following the case of Skyelar Hailey, accused of a noteworthy Admiral burglary case, and subject of multiple previous arrests – his case stemming from a November arrest is scheduled for trial in April:


  • tj February 18, 2009 (9:26 pm)

    Robert2715… I believe I can answer your question.

    Dailing 911 will get you to what is called a “primary dispatcher” so that only in progress events and emergencies are handled by these dispatchers.

    Dailing 206 625 5011, the 10 digit number will get you to what is called a “secondary dispatcher” who does the same job, just handles events that do not call for immediate police action.

    This system is set up to work quite well if citizens utilize it correctly. Hope this explained it a little…

  • J February 19, 2009 (9:53 am)

    Thanks, WSB! That helps me understand.

  • jsrekd February 19, 2009 (1:45 pm)

    tj – not exactly. A primary dispatcher answers ALL the lines, both 911 and 625. Every call into the center is screened by a primary operator. The difference between a call coming in on the 911 line vs. the 625 line (other than the voice mail tree on the 625 line) is that the 911 call will be answered FIRST. 625 calls will ring & ring & ring if all the operators are busy answering 911 calls. Confused yet?!

  • tj February 19, 2009 (10:45 pm)

    Well, I think my not so technical explanation was suffice. Of course unless you are a dispatcher…. ;)

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