Pocket-dialed 911 calls a headache for Kelowna cops

Local RCMP dealt with 1,192 accidently dialed 911 calls between May and August says says city's top cop.

The issue of inadvertent 911 calling from cell phones continues to keep Kelowna police hopping.

“Pocket dialling,” as it is known, was on the mind of the city’s top cop, Supt, Bill McKinnon Monday as he addressed city council about the latest crime statistics in Kelowna.

McKinnon said in the four-month period between the start of May and end of August, the Kelowna RCMP dealt with 1,192 pocket-dialled 911 calls from cell phones, about eight per cent of the total number of calls for service police dealt with in the period.

McKinnon said in responding to such calls, attempts are made to contact the callers by phone but if that is unsuccessful—which it is in most cases—police officers have to be dispatched.

He estimated the total cost of responding to each call at about $200.

“That’s a significant amount of money and a lot of man-hours,” said McKinnon.

He said typically a 911 call is responded to with two police cruisers.

The city currently has no way of charging for 911 calls from cell phones because the courts have ruled against that, noted Coun. Robert Hobson.

McKinnon said unlike Apple iPhones and other touch screen phones that have to switched on to operate, and phones that have their keyboards and number keys covered, Blackberry’s tend have a an uncovered key that allows emergency calls to be made even if the keys on the phone are locked.

The police superintendent said Kelowna is not alone in having a pocket-dialled 911 call problem. Police forces across the country are grappling with the same issue.

But McKinnon said it remains a problem that he would like to see addressed. But how to do that is a problem.

He said at this point the most he can do is urge the public to be more vigilant and not carry Blackberry’s in a pocket, or somewhere else where keys can accidently be pressed.