Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Chicago Planning 911 Diversion Program to Encourage Residents Not to Call 911 For Everything
By Dane Placko, FOX Chicago News & Better Government Association

Chicago - For as long as Chicago has had 911, the goal has been to respond to each and every call. But the police, put simply, are overwhelmed.
For every 911 call that deals with a real emergency -- a fire, a shooting, an accident -- the city's Office of Emergency Management receives many more calls from people who need less immediate help for things like loud music, a stolen bicycle, or a drunk on the corner.
"We're still probably the only major city in the country that still responds to calls that other cities do not respond to," said OEMC Deputy Director Clarence Thomas.
In 2010, Chicago's 911 system received over five million calls, but the CPD is down more than 1,100 officers and something has got to give.
"We're not gonna get the additional ten thousand officers or one thousand police officers that everybody would like to have," said CPD Commander Jim Roussell. "So we have to be a little smarter about how we do it."
So to make for a smarter system, FOX Chicago News and the Better Government Association have learned the city has been quietly working on what it calls the "911 Diversion Program," a multi-faceted attempt to take a fresh look at how 911 works and which calls are responded to.
We learned of the 911 Diversion Program while reporting on the Central Austin Neighborhood Association, a group of West Side Austin residents who have been complaining about 911 response.
"We do believe there are certain neighborhoods that do get 100 percent response to all types of calls. And to not do that in this community is not right," said Ron Reid, who with his wife, Serethea, head up the Austin neighbors group. They want the proposed 911 Diversion Program to impact all neighborhoods equally and they're worried that if police don't respond to all quality of life calls, their neighborhood will suffer.
Police point out that they currently dispatch a squad car, often with two officers, to fill out reports for simple thefts and garage break-ins. Under the 911 Diversion Plan, Chicago residents would be encouraged to go online and fill out their own police reports. The program would also encourage citizens to find other ways to deal with quality of life issues, like a noisy bar. Rather than calling the cops, they'll be encouraged to call 311 for other city departments or work proactively with neighborhood groups and aldermen to find solutions.
"In order for it to work, everyone has to buy into the whole process of using 911 to deal with your real emergencies. A drunk in and of itself is not an emergency," Thomas said.
The 911 diversion program is still in the planning stages, there's no date set for a rollout, and it will undoubtedly face scrutiny from the City Council, since Aldermen have in the past put political pressure on the police department to respond to every call.
And there's still the issue of measuring 911 response; the city has refused our Freedom Of Information Act requests for response times.
"If we don't have comparative figures on the 911 response times neighborhood to neighborhood, how can we figure out which neighborhoods need more cops and which need less?" said Andy Shaw, executive director of the BGA. "It's not just about crime statistics. Crime stats are one barometer for the amount of manpower you need. But so is response time to 911. Every neighborhood in Chicago deserves a roughly equal 911 response time."
The city has argued that releasing 911 response times would be like giving the bad guys a map on where to commit crimes.


  1. People need to be told the police are not social workers. If your kids don't listen to you, that's your problem. Take parenting classes; kick them out, whatever you need to do. It's YOUR responsibility. If your baby daddy kicks your ass, don't keep letting him back in. Grow up! We are not going to give up our police protection so they can baby-sit you. If you don't want to do the work to solve your problems then you can live in your own shit. Don't ask the rest of society to do the work for you. The world has changed. The days of quotas and free rides are over. We can no longer afford welfare queens and public leaches. Do what you need to do. Sink or swim. It's on you..

  2. Stop calling the police.....

    Sounds like a good plan to me boss.

  3. Well boss, I gave it a day to see how the diversion plan was working... here's a short summary:

    Noise and barking dog complaints, zone parking violations, people that locked their keys in the car, suspicious people standing about...not really doing anything but he's "up to no good, just send the police", anonymous calls of drug sales and they only description they can give is "the black guy on the corner", trespassing calls when no one is willing to sign a complaint, good citizens calling for people who don't want police or ems, sick or injured people calling for an ambulance because they have no ride to the doctor, people wanting to know where their son or baby daddy was arrested, people wanting to be transferred to the districts because they're too lazy to look up the numbers, people with the 911 phones wanting to know how to unlock it so they can make other calls, traffic accidents with no injuries and the cars are drivable, concerned citizens passing by an incident that they think the police should know about but apparently not concerned enough to get...ohh I don't know... a description?!...countless civil matters especially those related to the fast food industry or people upset about a store's return policy and they want the police to make them put cheese on their hamburger or tell a business owner how to run a business...

    and not to mention the disturbed or elderly calling from the payphones in the mental wards or retirement homes 1000 times a day...

    I'll give it some more time boss. I'm very optimistic about the city, especially after countless generations of good citizens being raised to call the police to solve all their problems.

  4. and another thing...

    just watched the video a few times over...

    to the Austin group: You hit the nail on the head when you say people in the neighborhood need to care... why is that the police department's responsibility? The government is responsible for making people care? Have fun with that one... it's worked well so far.

    to andy "the turtle" shaw: calls for service determines beat size and number of officers assigned. That's why I never see an officer in my neighborhood. Long response times don't mean anything except there aren't enough police and the police are backlogged with your precious quality of life calls... like getting a food order wrong, or the mechanic didn't fix my car the right way. Go ride along with a 7th or 8th district car for a week and you'll have different expectations of the police, and higher expectations of the residents.