EDITORIAL: Unnecessarily sounding alarms

Crime is down in our City By The Sea – by about 16 per cent, overall.

The good news is that crime is down in our City By The Sea – by about 16 per cent, overall, and 44 per cent in terms of violent crime comparing 2011 statistics with 2010.

The bad news is that White Rock residents are much more prone to crying wolf than crying foul.

When it comes to tying up the emergency lines, it appears that White Rockers are profligate offenders, with speed dialing, particularly of cell phones, the likely culprit.

How else to explain a spike in the number of misdialed 911 calls received – up an alarming 36 per cent to 1,420 – last year?

That’s an average of close to four erroneous calls each day. And that’s just in sleepy old White Rock – not the bustling, urban “million-stories-in-the-Naked-City” environment of South Surrey.

To misdial the simple three-number combination that many times requires an awful lot of people mislaying their spectacles (assuming, of course, all 1,420 didn’t come from a single confused individual).

A more credible explanation is that the emergency number has been pre-programmed by many to dial automatically in a moment of peril – or, more likely, the mis-hit of a single button.

A few wireless handsets, we suspect, are working their way down between the cushions of easy chairs, and more than a few cellphones are trapped in the tight confines of jean pockets, where a slight redistribution of weight may be all it takes to connect one’s nether regions with an eager passel of emergency responders.

Never mind the buttheads who persist in yakking on cellphones while they’re driving, disregarding the consistent evidence of danger and the heavy penalties advertised for offenders. It seems it now only requires a single aberrant buttock to occupy the authorities.

There’s a serious subtext, of course. Each and every one of those calls took up the valuable time of emergency personnel, potentially diverting them from responding to a real emergency.

Responding to misdials is not what we pay these highly-trained individuals for.

To err is, quite naturally, human; some false alarms will always be inevitable. But the White Rock figures suggest residents should be relying less on automation and more on common sense.

There may be some restricted enough in movement or memory to be incapable of dialing 911, but we’re betting that most can manage it, in a pinch.

Or we can simply sit on the problem – and watch the 911 call statistics climb through the roof next year.