"Phone calls are pretty much non-stop. The phone rings constantly all day. This particular shift here is three to 11. And we respond to approximately between 150 and 300 calls a day. That's just for this shift alone," says dispatcher Jeremy Bennett.
On just about any given day dispatchers handle life or death situations, but they, and the officers on patrol, are also spending a lot of time checking out business and residential alarm calls that don't pan out to anything but wasted time and resources.
"In 2002, we had over 105 false alarm calls at one location...105. That's two officers responding to that false alarm, and you take that at an average of 20 minutes a call. This past year, we had over 45 alarm calls to one location, false alarm calls," says Gulfport Police Chief Alan Weatherford.
The police department responded to more than 7,600 false alarms last year at a cost of more than $72,000. Chief Weatherford says these calls are a waste of tax payer dollars and a drain on the police department. That's why police are about to start cracking down on false alarm calls, by enforcing an ordinance that will make businesses and residences pay up if they exceed the limit of allowed false alarm calls under this regulation.
"March 1, we're going to start enforcing the ordinance. We're trying to get the message out. We're going to put it in the water bills in Gulfport. It's not about the penalties. It's about reducing false alarms in this city," Weatherford says.
Under the ordinance, residences are allowed three false alarm calls each calendar year, but will be fined for every false alarm call after that. Commercial businesses will be allowed three false alarm calls every six months, but will be fined for each false alarm call after that.