Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Maybe a new record: over 27,000 prank 911 calls

Hayward, California police and federal investigators tracked down and arrested a cellphone caller believed to have phoned 911 more than 27,000 times and making bodily noises, muttering in a disguised voice, and making beep tones.

Last Wednesday night, police arrested John Triplette on suspicion of abusing the 911 emergency line, a misdemeanor punishable by $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail. "He completely overwhelmed our system," said Desi Calzada, manager of the Hayward Communications Center, which operates 911. "He delayed the answering of other 911 calls because we were answering his."

It started last May, when the Highway Patrol's communication center in Vallejo began receiving multiple 911 calls from a mysterious caller using a T-Mobile cellphone. Over a seven-month period, the caller placed 17,000 calls to the CHP. In early January, Hayward's dispatch center took over the local 911 calls and became the new target.

"The caller would make various noises, including grunts and other bodily noises, minimal conversation in a disguised voice, beeps from the touch pad, etc.," according to Lt. Chris Orrey, a spokeswoman for the Hayward Police. In a single week, the center received 1,327 calls from the same phone, inflating incoming calls by 30 percent.

Then Calzada and Hayward police Detective Bill Alexander contacted the FCC, which can identify a caller's location.

But before he was nabbed, the caller managed to grunt in another 10,000 calls to the police, as well as 4,000 to the Solano County Sheriff's Department, Orrey said.

When the investigators finally located the cellphone at Triplette's home, he apologized for making the calls, according to Orrey. His explanation for all those calls? "Because it's free." (info from San Francisco Chronicle)

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