Excessive 911 calls cause problems for those with true emergencies

Published: May. 17, 2012 at 7:54 PM EDT|Updated: May. 18, 2012 at 12:08 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Pranksters are a pretty persistent problem for 911 operators.

Here in Louisville, officials say they create competition for open lines, waste call-takers time and risk delaying real emergency response.

Dispatcher: "Does he need to go to the hospital because he's having trouble breathing? We're going to have someone come and check you out."

Even during the busiest time of day, MetroSafe has only about ten people waiting to take emergency calls for all of Louisville.

"We'll sometimes have 911 calls holding because so many people call on one instance," said Jody Johnson, MetroSafe spokeswoman.

That is why Johnson says when operators hear a certain voice on the line, it's so frustrating.

Caller: "Do you need any information from me first?"

911 operator: "What information would you like to give me?"

Caller: "I need to report an assault."

The voice on the other end belongs to Connie Marshall.

If the name sounds familiar, it's because she was a 2010 candidate for Louisville Metro Mayor. She's also the most frequent caller to Louisville's 911.

"Last year alone, I've got some statistics, she called 684 times," said Johnson. She says sometimes Marshall will call up to 19 times in one day. "The duration of all of the calls together was about 29 hours."

If that sounds excessive, it seems to be getting worse. A call log from Marshall's number this year shows there have been 630 calls through the beginning of this month. And that's just from one number. MetroSafe says Marshall is now using a second line as well to place calls.

"In one day, actually last week, she called 27 times in one day," said Johnson.

Sources tell us this is a pretty typical complaint from her. "I am reporting an assault that's been going on all morning. And again, I do not want an ambulance at my home. I do not want a police officer at my home."

"She didn't need anything. She just wanted us to be recording information on the telephone," said Johnson.

As you listen to the call, it becomes pretty clear there's something else going on.

"I am the lady who's being assaulted by directed energy weapons and it is the Louisville Metro Police Department that are committing the crimes," said Marshall in one of her calls.

However, at MetroSafe, they're frustrated.

Marshall is not the only person who calls 911 who doesn't need a response.

Johnson says "Sometimes we do have prank calls and unfortunately adults do prank call as well and they call and say, hey, there's a fire at this location."

MetroSafe officials tell us she is clearly the worst abuser. She's been calling for three years and it's escalating and tying up the line for people who have more pressing emergencies.

"I feel for the people. Yes, they should get through. But I should not be ignored when I'm being burned, when I'm being raped, when my heart's being attacked, when I'm being made to fall down in my own home, when all of those things are going on, then no, I should not be ignored," said Marshall

We talked to Marshall to ask her why she calls so frequently. "It's a matter of fact, it's well over 600 times. It could be more than 900,000. You can look at it on the other side of the coin. That's how many assaults I have endured," she said.

MetroSafe director Doug Hamilton sent Marshall a notice late last month saying that she could face penalties if her calls continue and if she doesn't need police, fire or EMS, the operators will now hang up.

Johnson says she's unclear if Marshall could face criminal charges for her calls to 911 and Hamilton says frankly jail space should be reserved for violent offenders.

A spokesman for the county attorney's office says the office, which represents MetroSafe, hasn't been asked for an official opinion. In general, someone would have to put individuals or property in danger to face charges for misuse of 911.

Copyright 2012 WAVE News. All rights reserved.