By Rikki King Herald Writer
SNOHOMISH — Police here are seeking harassment charges against a man accused of making dozens of malicious calls to emergency dispatchers.
The man, 46, of Snohomish, made at least 48 calls to 911 in recent weeks, Snohomish Police Chief John Flood said.
On one night alone, the man called 911 at least 20 times, according to the arrest report.
“He was verbally abusive to the call-takers,” Flood said.
The man was intoxicated during many of the calls, records show. He made threats to the dispatchers and toward police.
The man has mental health problems, according to the report. His family is going through some issues, and he was frustrated after being told that 911 was not the right resource for him.
Neighbors and local businesses also have been logging complaints about the man’s erratic behavior for at least a year, the chief said.
The dispatchers’ supervisor asked the police department for help.
In most cases, telephone harassment is a misdemeanor under state law. The case has been forwarded to the city attorneys for charges.
Misuse of 911 systems is a problem nationwide, said Karl Christian, operations manager at SNOPAC, one of three primary emergency dispatch centers in Snohomish County.
Abusive or inappropriate calls tie up the phone lines and delay responses for real emergencies, Christian said.
“A case that gets to the level of harassment, such as this, is very rare,” he said.
Flood has been with the sheriff’s office more than 20 years. This is the first time he’s seen 911 abuse lead to a criminal case, he said.
“It reached a point where we felt we had to take action through the legal system to put an end to this,” he said. “Our attempts to reason with (the man) and resolve it at our level were not productive.”
Each abusive call to 911 dispatchers could be considered an individual count of harassment, Flood said. The man had been warned by police multiple times.
“We want people to understand they can’t abuse the system,” the chief said. “It’s vital.”
The man was arrested July 20. On Wednesday, he remained booked at the Snohomish County Jail. He has some criminal history but no known felonies as an adult.
The Washington State Patrol also has reported problems with the man calling its dispatchers and being abusive, Flood said. Troopers reached out to Snohomish police, who are folding those complaints into the local case.
The man also is being investigated for making false reports to police.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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