MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — While some law enforcement agencies look to improve response times, another one in the West Metro says citizens aren’t calling 911 enough.

West Hennepin Public Safety covers Maple Plain and Independence. Police Chief Gary Kroells says too many residents call the non-emergency line for actual emergencies and crimes.

Answering calls is part of Linda Franklin’s job as an administrator for West Hennepin Public Safety. But lately she’s been more a 911 dispatcher despite the fact that her phone is the agency’s non-emergency line. Whether it’s a car crash, domestic disturbance, or burglary, Franklin finds herself jotting down information on a notepad as the caller details their incident. Chief Kroells said it’s becoming a problem.

“First and foremost, we don’t have any ability here at the office to locate or triangulate you through GPS. Whether it’s a cellphone or your home number, we don’t have that type of equipment here at the office,” Kroells said. “It takes a considerable amount of time just to figure out where you’re at because we don’t have any other back up system to try to locate you.”

Once Franklin finishes the call, she ends up relaying that information to Hennepin County Dispatch, where Chief Kroells said should’ve been called in the first place.

“It gets a little bit long and tedious, and the result is we want to get a police officer there as fast as possible to handle the situation,” he said.

Being a small community, Chief Kroells says residents feel too comfortable calling or texting officers directly instead of dialing 911. While he appreciates the open line of communication with the community, he’d prefer it not be to report crimes and emergencies.
Another issue involves people reporting those same incidents on social media, but not to police.

“We had it happen this weekend in the Maple Plain area. Somebody was complaining [on Facebook] about, ‘Lock your stuff up, we’ve had stuff missing, we’ve had stuff stolen out of garage, burglaries, keep an eye on stuff.’ I found no activity whatsoever that anyone called [911] with any of those concerns in the last seven days,” he said.

Sometimes a person will comment on the social media post asking if the crime victim actually called police or 911, much to Chief Kroells’ appreciation.

“If you need a police officer response, if you need to speak with a police officer in person, call 911. It’s appropriate,” he said.

West Hennepin Public Safety’s non-emergency line is 763-479-0500, which transfers to Hennepin County Dispatch after normal business hours.

Jeff Wagner

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