Last week, Mayor Bloomberg begrudgingly released an independent consultant’s report on New York City's 911 system, which found that "call operators waste time on duplicative questions and employ inconsistent questioning procedures." Even more startling, nearly 40% of all calls to 911 in 2010 came from butt-dials. Now we have a much clearer picture of why Bloomberg was reluctant to release all the data: it makes the city look like an ass.
In fact, the 911 system received 3,910,373 butt calls in 2010, more than the 3,495,716 emergency calls in which police cars were dispatched. Of the 10.4 million calls to 911 during 2010, there was an average of 10,700 false alarm “short calls” of 19 seconds or less. And during the first four months of 2011, there was a higher percentage of butt dials! “The increased proliferation of cellular telephones has caused a dramatic increase in the number of accidental 911 calls made,” the report dryly noted.
With the proliferation of cell phones—nearly 60% of all emergency calls came from them in 2010, compared to less than 30% in 2003—how can the city try to remedy this problem? The reason the city hasn't been too upset about all those butt dials? They make the overall 911 response times look much, much better. According to the report, “The NYPD reported the 2010 System Average Total Talk Time was 1:08 minutes. Since the total number of calls received includes approximately 3.9 million short calls, utilizing this metric as currently calculated does not accurately reflect the NYPD’s time spent on received and processed 9-1-1 calls.”
With that in mind, why would the city even want to fix this? And how can Mayor Bloomberg go about fixing something in a report he hasn't even bothered to read yet?