Dialing 911? That'll Be $200, Please

Vallejo, Calif. to charge for bogus emergency calls

By Owen Thomas
|  Friday, Sep 18, 2009  |  Updated 11:42 AM EDT
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Dialing 911? That'll Be $200, Please

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If you don't really need an ambulance, a California city wants to operate on your wallet.

If you dial 911 and then change your mind, the city of Vallejo, Calif. will soon charge you $200.

Admittedly, the city is strapped for cash. Vallejo filed for bankruptcy last year. But are people calling an emergency number really the best source of funds?

City officials say the fee is necessary to stop the cost of sending out police officers on bogus calls, the Vallejo Times-Herald reports. When people call 911, hang up, and don't respond to dispatchers calling them back, two officers must respond.

That happens 4,000 to 5,000 times a year, adding up to a tab of $2 million. Only 3 percent of the hangup calls are actual emergencies.

911 dialers who answered dispatchers' return calls and explained their mistake wouldn't be charged the new fee, which the city council will vote on in a few weeks.

"Obviously, there's that many pepole that don't think it's convenient to pick up the phone and say it's no problem," Lt. Abel Tenorio, a spokesman for the Vallejo police, told the Times-Herald. "This might make them think twice."

Misusing 911 lines is a violation of California state law, but the fee is a new measure against 911 abuse.

It's part of a trend of local governments trying to grapple with 911 costs. In June, Tracy, Calif., instituted a $48/year "membership" for residents who call 911 for medical emergencies.

Remember when we used to call money paid to government for essential services "taxes"?

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