Idaho Police Save Woman’s Life Via Texting

Police in Post Falls, Idaho don’t just save lives — they can do it via texting now.

The police department in Post Falls launched a new text-a-crime system in early 2013, at a time when the police department was looking for new ways to solve crimes and respond to emergencies. The line was meant to allow people to report crimes or tips via texting, and to generate new leads, with the belief that young people might be more willing to text crime tips, as well as perhaps benefit people who are hearing impaired.

It was also for people who may need to contact 911 discreetly or silently. People could email or text information to through their cellphone and a police dispatcher would receive the information immediately. An officer would then be dispatched if a crime was in progress.

Earlier this week, a woman used the line, texting that she intended to hurt herself. She refused to pick up her phone, and so dispatchers with the Post Falls police department spent the next hour texting her, sending and receiving about 60 text messages total.

While texting with the distraught woman, dispatchers were able to determine that she was driving around the nearby community of Coeur d’Alene, and persuaded the woman to turn herself in to that community’s police officers in order to get the help she desperately needed, according to police Communications Director Charlene Holbrook.

Holbrook added that people should still call 911 directly and immediately if they need emergency help, even for so-called “non-crimes,” such as this woman’s particular case. However, reporting a crime via texting is a viable option for those who need to use it.

“The program isn’t set up to get rid of 911, but we do feel it is the next wave of reporting crimes,” Post Falls Police Chief Scott Haug explained.

Texting is different than talking on the phone, and police and dispatchers were “on pins and needles” waiting for the next text to pop up, Holbrook said.

“When you’re talking to someone on the phone, if they’re crying you can calm them, or relate to them or have compassion,” Communication Supervisor Laura Claffey said. “On text-a-crime you can’t read the inflection in their voice.”

The department often goes days without receiving any text messages, Haug said. The text it received Wednesday night was the first high-priority text message their system has received.

Police and dispatchers work together for the betterment of their community, but sometimes their efforts go above-and-beyond their call of duty, and allows them to impact an individual on a very personal level. Click here to read about the man who called 911 over 4,000 times in one week — and received a touching surprise gift instead of any reprimands.

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