Deactivated cell phones to blame for many accidental, prank 911 calls


CAPE CORAL, Fla.- Accidental and prank calls to 911 are causing problems for law enforcement in Southwest Florida. It’s gotten so bad that now the federal government is getting involved. You may not realize it but discarded cell phones that no longer have service are still able to make 911 calls. Now the Federal Communications Commission is proposing to do away with that 20-year-old rule.

Lee County’s 911 call center gets between two and six fraudulent calls every single day from cell phones with no wireless service. Those calls can take up to four hours to identify the caller, time law enforcement could be spending on more important issues.

Cape Coral Police say this is a problem they deal with constantly.

“It ties up a call taker and a minimum of two officers. On a 911 hang up call we send two officers in case it ends up being a situation where a crime of violence may have occurred. It actually is a pretty serious sink on the limited resources we already have,” said Detective Sergeant Dana Coston.

Sgt. Coston says many of those accidental or prank calls are being made through old, disconnected phones.

“Whether it’s an old flip phone that you have or if it’s a newer phone like a smart phone that you may not be using anymore but you’re handing it off to a child to use as an MP3 player or a gaming device… if it’s a cell phone, if it was a phone at one point then it’s still capable of making that emergency 911 call even if you’re not paying for service,” said Coston.

Now the Federal Communications Commission will decide if it’s time to end the 20-year-old law, meaning old cell phones would no longer be able to call 911, a change some worry could put lives in danger in an emergency.

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