Major Spike In 911 Call Hang-Ups

OCEAN CITY – Resort officials continue to seek answers for the growing number of 911 hang ups taking place throughout town.

On Monday, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro presented the Ocean City Police Commission with an update on police activity for the month of July. Among the top 25 calls for service last month, Buzzuro said the most notable statistic was 911 hang ups, which increased from 538 in July of 2018 to 1,084 in July of 2019, a 101% increase. In a review of the issue, the department noted the locations from which the calls originated were not confined to a certain area, but rather spread out citywide.

“I can’t understand why there’s such an uptick,” Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald said. “It could be technology. It could be legitimate hang ups. I can’t answer how and why.”

Council President Lloyd Martin questioned how the department responded to such calls.

“Do we respond to these 911 hang ups?” he asked.

Theobald replied that the department dispatched officers to any address or area that was identified before the call ended.

“Police are dispatched every time there’s a hang up to confirm there is not an issue,” he said.

Buzzuro agreed.

“If we don’t have an address, and a call came in, then we can code it as such,” he said. “If we have something to go on, whether it’s triangulation of an area or something else, we will do our best.”

Mayor Rick Meehan questioned if something was wrong with the system.

“No, but I think it’s something we have to watch for another month and start to look at it on a weekly basis,” said Theobald. “We’ll keep an extra eye on it.”

It should be noted this is not the first month the department has reported an uptick in 911 hang ups. In May, for example, hang ups increased from 234 to 328, a 40% increase and in June, hang ups increased from 421 to 695, a 65% jump.

Councilman Matt James questioned if the number of hang-ups were correlated to hotel occupancy. He noted, for example, hotel guests could dial nine to enter an outside phone number and inadvertently call 911.

“I know we have a lot of people that call, by mistake, from a hotel room,” he said. “I don’t know if it makes up the 500-call difference, but I wonder if there’s some correlation between hotel occupancy and 911 hang ups.”

Buzzuro said it was worth exploring. He also questioned if the growing number of 911 hang ups were related to new tower installations and technology. Currently, the department attributes the increase to accidental “pocket dialing.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.