Keeping the Phone Lines Busy

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It has happened more than 16,000 times this year and if it continues at that pace or greater, it will eclipse a record that was set just last year.

In 2003, the Parkersburg Police Department handled more than 31,600 calls. Until 1999, the department took an average of roughly 25,000 calls. Since then, that number has been steadily growing.

"It's going to increase and it's going to be a burden," says Parkersburg Police Chief Bob Newell. "And right now we're down in manpower because we have three or four openings we need to fill."

Police say it's no coincidence that the number of calls started growing at the same time the enhanced 9-1-1 service began in Wood County. Chief Newell says that because that phone number is easy to remember and dial, residents began making law enforcement calls they might not have made before.

The reason this is a concern to police is that Parkersburg has the same authorized number of officers it had 25 years ago. Furthermore, three positions remain unfilled while new officer recruits complete required training.

"We get a lot of calls about neighborhood disputes," Newell says. "There are a lot of disorderly juvenile calls when in fact they're just standing around doing nothing. We get a lot of that."

The police chief says that while 9-1-1 has resulted in an increase in nuisance, or non-emergency calls, the bulk of the cases have to do with domestic violence and traffic accidents.

While the number of calls into the Police Department have jumped above 30,000 since 2002, Chief Newell doesn't believe terrorism concerns are a factor in the increase.