Why not 611?
April 11, 2005 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Why does the US not have a general non-emergency police contact number?

This would be like 911, but for non-emergencies. A short, easy-to-remember number that will connect you to the local authorities nearest your current physical location (even on cell phones?) I suggest "6-1-1". It's similar enough to 911 to be able to remember easily. Who do I need to talk to to get the ball rolling on this?
posted by attercoppe to Technology (19 answers total)
Start it locally. Contact local officials and convince them to start it. The first thing that comes to mind, though, is that they will be worried about the costs of increased call volume. Maybe a better contact person would be the local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau or some service organization that wants to promote the community? I dunno... just brainstorming here. If you get it going, though, get back to me; I might be able to contact the right people here in Fort Worth to get it going if I can convince them.
posted by Doohickie at 8:29 PM on April 11, 2005

611 is already in use for repair/provisioning, although it's not an official standard or anything.

Also, I think you may be drastically underestimating the amount of government and phone company bureaucracy involved in changing something like this...
posted by xil at 8:35 PM on April 11, 2005

311 may be what you're looking for.
posted by Guy Smiley at 8:35 PM on April 11, 2005

Also: NANPA is as good a place to start as any.
posted by xil at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2005

New York uses 311 for just about every non-emergency city service.
posted by falconred at 8:40 PM on April 11, 2005

I reported a couple broken windows on my car the other week (asshole kids), but had to call 911 to do it. When the report writer called me back and asked for the serial # of the camera that was stolen, I asked if I could call her back on that on a number besides 911. She told me that they use 911 as a central point for all calls, so that every call gets logged. I *do* recall that as a kid there was a precinct number, but I guess they've gone to that central 911 number.
posted by notsnot at 8:41 PM on April 11, 2005

You also must consider the costs involved in starting up such an operating and then maintaining it.
posted by mischief at 8:43 PM on April 11, 2005

Baltimore also uses 311 as the municipal information line.
posted by maniactown at 8:49 PM on April 11, 2005

I think I've heard the same thing as notsnot. Here in the blue section of the Pittsburgh white pages, if I recall correctly, the phone number for everything police related up front is 911. A whole column of 911---I guess now it's more than just emergencies.
posted by tss at 9:10 PM on April 11, 2005

You might want to read up on how 511 was established to be used for transit information.
posted by Sangre Azul at 9:12 PM on April 11, 2005

Miami-Dade County, FL uses 311 as well.
posted by icontemplate at 10:29 PM on April 11, 2005

"...organizations such as APCO and NENA opposed so-called N-1-1 telephone numbers (311, 511, 711, etc.), fearing they would confuse the public when they encountered an emergency situation.

Since then, 311 implementation has been very slow..."

Because, of course, the current situation of overloaded 911 exchanges and people with emergencies being unable to get assistance is so much better.

Why have negative action groups got so much power in the US? For every one person that wants to make something better there are 10,000 people that want to block them and whinge about how much everything sucks.
posted by krisjohn at 1:32 AM on April 12, 2005

I *do* recall that as a kid there was a precinct number, but I guess they've gone to that central 911 number.

There's always a number somewhere for your local precinct/police HQ/sheriff's office etc if you have time to look it up.
For what it's worth, when my car got towed on a weekend in NYC and I didn't have key information (like, um, the license plate number, don't ask), 311 had an automated system that couldn't help me find out if the car was stolen or towed, but a nice sergeant at the local precinct helped me locate it at the tow pound in minutes. Often, getting a human being on the (non-911) phone at the copshop is better than these centralized info lines.
posted by CunningLinguist at 4:04 AM on April 12, 2005

When I had to call the police, I called 911 and they specifically asked if it was an emergency. It was in reference to a fender-bender, so I told them that it wasn't. I assume that if it was an emergency they would have put priority on the call.

So, in Pittsburgh at least, you call 911 for all calls and then state whether or not it is an emergency and they take it from there.
posted by qwip at 6:43 AM on April 12, 2005

because in a nonemergency, you can take time call 411, then the number you're given for your local precinct.

but FWIW, 311 is the national standard non emergency contact police number. [.pdf] it is simply being phased in slowly.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:02 AM on April 12, 2005

I'm not sure this helps answer your question about why there isn't one number nationally, but I keep the local non-emergency number (a regular phone number in Alexandria, VA) in my cell phone (and have it memorized) and use it to report all kinds of stuff. I am surprised how often I use it now that I've got it report people passed out on the side of the road, car fires, stray dogs, etc. Even when it's not the appropriate number, they'll connect me with the right people. I've used 911 to report a guy chasing another guy with a 2x4, but it took 12 rings for 911 to pick up, so I think the non-emergency number is actually faster, at least where I live. And my neighborhood's not even that bad.
posted by drobot at 7:43 AM on April 12, 2005

For every one person that wants to make something better there are 10,000 people that want to block them and whinge about how much everything sucks.

Perhaps those 10,000 (or at least some significant fraction of them) are legitimately concerned about the unintended consequences of the "improvement." Ignoring possible unintended consequences is setting your house on fire to keep warm.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:49 AM on April 12, 2005

I don't know how other people in Chicago see 311 being used, but I don't really like it. I had a fender-bender once and called 311 to report it, but I got transfered to 911. They have a pretty low threshold for police calls.
posted by MeetMegan at 1:54 PM on April 12, 2005

611 rings Nextel customer service on a Nextel phone.
posted by SlyBevel at 7:46 AM on April 13, 2005

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