Crime takes a snow day

Posted January 10

— When the snow and ice started piling up in the Bull City and Durham County on Saturday, calls to the county's 911 center started going down.

On a typical Saturday, 911 dispatchers handle 1,122 calls, but that was down to 856 on Saturday – a 24 percent drop.

Durham's Emergency Communications Director James Soukup credited weather forecasts for the decline.

"When there's enough warning – and there was considerable warning for a storm like this – people are prepared when the storm hits," Soukup said. "It snows, and they stay inside."

On Sunday, 911 calls were also down sharply as people remained inside and off icy roads, he said.

Raleigh and Wake County officials noticed a similar decline in their 911 calls over the snowy weekend – down 26 percent. Raleigh police responded to about 250 fewer calls than an average Saturday, but EMS paramedics and Raleigh firefighters were busier than normal.

Soukup said that response times were also 23 seconds better than normal during the storm, even though police officers were driving more slowly, because there was less traffic on Durham's streets and more officers were available to answer fewer calls.

"We had more officers in positions to respond because they weren't responding to lower-priority calls, and it left more resources for the high-priority calls," he said.

Still dispatcher Tairia Whitis said Durham's 911 center got plenty of snow- and cold-related calls, from accidents to people seeking shelter.

"We had one lady who kept calling because she was too cold and she wanted to go somewhere else, but when the officer showed up, basically, she said she didn't want to turn her heat up because her bill would be too high," Whitis said.

"A lot of people were just frustrated, frustrated with the situation," she said.

As temperatures began creeping up this week, so did the number of 911 calls. By Monday, they had returned to average levels, Soukup said.


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