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Managing Citizen Calls to the Police: The Impact of Baltimore's 3-1-1 CALL System

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 2 Issue: 1 Dated: November 2002 Pages: 97-124
Date Published
November 2002
28 pages

This paper explores the impact of implementing a nonemergency 3-1-1 call system in an effort to alleviate the high volume of nonemergency calls placed to 9-1-1.


The authors explain that while the implementation of the 9-1-1 emergency call system allowed police to more quickly respond to emergency situations, its overuse by the public has caused problems for police organizations. Too many nonemergency calls to 9-1-1 result in too many demands placed on police officer resources, which ultimately reduces the response time of police officers to emergency situations. In order to alleviate the clogged 9-1-1 call system, the Federal Government reserved another three digit phone number for nonemergency use. The authors examine how the use of the 3-1-1 call system in Baltimore, Maryland, has affected the operations of the 9-1-1 system and, especially, police response to emergencies. Using data gathered from Baltimore’s call system and from a survey of patrol officers, line supervisors, and sector managers, the authors discovered that the implementation of the 3-1-1 nonemergency line led to a 34.2 percent decrease in the volume of calls to 9-1-1. The authors also discovered a slight increase in police response times to high priority emergency calls. Thus, the authors conclude that the implementation of nonemergency call systems can greatly facilitate the smooth operation of 9-1-1 emergency call systems. Police organizations are urged to re-evaluate their dispatch policies and their patrol resources in order to support such alternative methods for handling citizen calls for help. Tables, references

Date Published: November 1, 2002