When to Call 911 vs. Calling the Police

It’s possible you read the title of this article and thought, “Wait, isn’t calling 911 the same as calling the police?” Aside from the fact that 911 can also connect you to fire and medical emergency teams, there is actually a significant difference. Moreover, knowing when to call 911 as opposed to your local police precinct isn’t as cut-and-dry as you might think.

In general, you should always call 911 when someone’s life, safety, health, or property is in immediate danger. This would include violent crimes (including domestic violence), instances of suspicious persons or vehicles, fights, people with weapons, instances involving suicide or attempted suicide, or a situation in which someone is having a dangerous mental or emotional episode. You should also call 911 immediately for any kind of fire-related emergency or if you need an ambulance.

Cases involving a missing person are more complicated. Call your local precinct unless one of the following criteria apply (in which case you should call 911):

  • The missing person is a child.
  • The missing person has a mental or physical disability.
  • The circumstances are suspicious and hint at a more serious crime.

For burglaries, if the premises have been checked and the suspects are not on the scene, then you should call the precinct. However, if you are uncertain whether the suspects are gone, you should call 911 and wait outside or in a safe location until police arrive and secure the property.

Some of the above situations may seem like obvious reasons to call 911, since there is a sense of urgency to them. It’s important to also know when to call your local police precinct instead of 911. Below is a list of several such circumstances:

  1. Crimes in which there are no injuries and the suspects are no longer on the scene or nearby. These would include theft, stolen cars, vandalism, harassment, trespassing, threats, and cases of assault involving non-serious injuries.
  2. Traffic accidents with no bodily injuries and which do not present a serious traffic hazard.
  3. Questions concerning arrests or prisoners.
  4. Noise disturbances, like excessively loud music or parties.
  5. Questions about vehicles that have been towed or impounded.
  6. Suspected cases involving drugs, prostitution or gambling that are not currently in progress.
  7. Warrant information.
  8. Disabled vehicles, debris in the roadway, and damaged or malfunctioning traffic signs and signals that are not a serious traffic hazard.
  9. Information on traffic tickets, parking tickets, or court appearances.
  10. Complaints about the police.

The above list is not comprehensive but should give you a sense of the kind circumstances that do not necessitate a call to 911. Emergency dispatchers are very busy and the less non-urgent calls they receive the better able they are to help those who need urgent help.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for any kind of criminal offense in New Jersey, you urgently need the assistance of a skilled attorney. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law are skilled criminal defense attorneys with experience helping people in many kinds of difficult situations. Email Rosenblum Law or call 888-815-3649 today for a free consultation about your case.

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