Misplaced Phone Rage
August 21, 2006 9:52 AM   Subscribe

How much, if at all, should I follow up on a series of abusive calls and a text message received on my cellphone in the middle of the night, but not intended for me or anyone I know?

My wife answered my ringing cellphone, since I tend to not hear it, at 3am Sunday morning. The guy thought that he was talking to a "Katie," and my wife thought that it was probably a work emergency for me. So she identified it as my phone, whereupon the guy assumed that Katie, his ex, or whatever, had another guy there and sorta went off and called repeatedly until my wife finally woke me up, I listened to a few of the voice messages, and turned off the phone. Both the voicemail and the one text message promised some unspecified violence to both Katie and her new beau.

So I should probably just blow this off. The guy's number is untraceable, at least using the free reverse lookups that I know about but it originated from the 609 area code, which suggests the Madison, WI area. (I am in Oregon.)

I worry about this Katie, though. But aside from contacting police in Madison, who would not likely be interested, I am not sure what to do.

Anyone got a take on this?
posted by Danf to Human Relations (19 answers total)
Um, 609 is New Jersey, not Wisconsin.
posted by cerebus19 at 9:55 AM on August 21, 2006

No advice, but FYI 609 area code is in New Jersey.
posted by amro at 9:55 AM on August 21, 2006

Response by poster: I stand corrected. . .further away from me, but a more dangerous place. . .
posted by Danf at 9:56 AM on August 21, 2006

That aside, though, what harm could there be in calling the police from the area the person called from? The worst they can do is tell you they can't do anything to help.
posted by cerebus19 at 9:56 AM on August 21, 2006

609 is South Jersey, 608 is Madison.
Other than that, I think they'll figure it out when they sober up.
posted by Floydd at 9:57 AM on August 21, 2006

And, incidentally, just because you can't trace the number doesn't mean the police can't. You can play them the messages; if they're as threatening as you say they are, the police ought to at least check it out.
posted by cerebus19 at 9:58 AM on August 21, 2006

Somewhat related story from my youth. I was babysitting for two couples when I was fourteen or so, and one of the husbands was convinced that his wife was having an affair with the other husband, and started calling the house I was at and threatening me and them and everyone. I called my parents and had them stay with me so that I was protected from the maniac husband.

Who eventually showed up with a friend.

And the friend had a gun.

I sure wished at that point that I'd called the police instead of my daddy, ya know? It worked out and nobody got hurt (uh, that night, I don't really know how the wife made out over the rest of her marriage) but it never should have gone down the way it did - someone brandishing a gun and yelling outside a house where his kids were staying. I'm sure if the wife had been there, someone would have been shot.

You're far more distant from this than I was, since these aren't your neighbours, but do yourself a favour. Make yourself feel better. Call the local police (not 911, just the local precinct) and ask them if there's anything they can do or you should do.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:00 AM on August 21, 2006

With cell phones, you really can't assume that the area code corresponds at all with the location of the caller.

Could you try contacting your local police to complain about being harassed? "Some guy's trying to call some girl" may not get anyone's attention, but "This guy is harassing me" might.
posted by occhiblu at 10:00 AM on August 21, 2006

(And it would have to be a cell phone if he texted you, right? Also it's more likely he'd be in your time zone and calling at 3am than in NJ and calling a gf at 6am. Not to be all alarmist, just saying your police dept. might be more interested than you think.)
posted by occhiblu at 10:05 AM on August 21, 2006

The police are interested in threats of violence. It certainly doesn't hurt you to report it. Then, if there's a failure to respond it's a failure of the police, not you.
posted by winston at 10:42 AM on August 21, 2006

Please contact your local law enforcement and ask for advice. They have better tools available to them than you do. It sounds as if Katie is in a lot of trouble and you can help her.
posted by verveonica at 11:42 AM on August 21, 2006

I am not a cop, but I've got a friend who works for them. Based on what he's told me:

Your local police proably could get the caller's information from your cell service provider. They'd forward that to whoever covers the area the caller lives, and -those- cops would go deal with him. Probably send out an officer for a "so, everything okay with your home life, cos this guy in Oregon says otherwise" chat. (They'd also pull up his records, see if he's got anything outstanding. If he does.. two reasons to arrest someone are more fun than one reason.)

Whether they'll do all of this... honestly, depends on how busy things are that day.

Go ahead and call the police, ask to make a report. I'd be worried about Katie, too.
posted by cmyk at 11:55 AM on August 21, 2006

Could you try a few variations on xxx-xxx-xxxY (where x is your phone number) and see if you got ahold of Katie?

Let her know you know there's trouble and that, though you don't want to pry, you're worried about her. You can give her the phone number for a domestic violence hotline (they can also direct her to a women's shelter) and tell her you could help her find someone who could help her get a restraining order. You could direct her to a group in her state that could help.
posted by beatrice at 12:11 PM on August 21, 2006

I'd report it to the local police. I don't think I'd expect much from them, but I'd feel better having called. You might want to point out to them that the person may not actually be in NJ, given the timing of the calls. The only thing I would be concerned about is becoming this person's target, since he know the number he called.

Here's a thought, possibly crazy - you could call him back, and explain that he did not catch Katie with some other man, but instead had a wrong number. He probably was under some influence at 3:00 AM, and may be more rational now. That could help her too, since right now he seems to be operating on that idea. (But the down side would be getting you involved. Maybe there's a smarter way to do this.)

help her get a restraining order
This is off topic, but restraining orders are not always a good idea. Apparently that piece of paper is not much of a restraint on a violent, angry person, and sometimes further enrage/induce the person to violence.
posted by Amizu at 12:32 PM on August 21, 2006

I'm assuming you have a 608 area code, and you live in Oregon, WI, not Oregon the state? Could it simply be that he, originating from 609, meant to call Katie at (609) - 555 - 1234, and instead dialed (608) - 555- 1234, and got you and your wife?

No matter what, I think it's a good idea to call your local police and alert them to the situation.
posted by inging at 1:40 PM on August 21, 2006

I got 2 calls that started off "where is my money, bitch". In the first I denied that I was XXX. In the second I said "do you want me to call the cops?".

I didn't get a third call.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 2:08 PM on August 21, 2006

What wireless carrier do you have? Call them and ask to speak to someone in security, and explain the issue. They can often be very helpful folks, even though they might not disclose information directly to you as a customer.

At the very least, have them document the issue. Get some sort of a paper trail started.

/former AT&T Wireless employee

Also, the free reverse lookups are quite often dead wrong.
posted by drstein at 4:27 PM on August 21, 2006

... and instead dialed (608) - 555- 1234, and got you and your wife?
And then kept using the redial button to call back, which is why he kept calling the wrong number but (I assume) hasn't called since, because he has dialled the number correctly.
posted by dg at 4:53 PM on August 21, 2006

Danf, why do you assume that NJ is more dangerous than WI?
posted by Cranialtorque at 7:03 PM on August 21, 2006

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