9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Robbery" or "Burglary"

It's a question of terminology. Has the caller really been robbed, or have they been burglarized? It may make little difference to the victim but to the dispatcher, and the responding officer, it makes a great difference in terms of response priority and tactics.

The terms "robbery," "burglary," and "theft" are used quite freely by the press and many times are used out of context. Citizens, their understanding of the law often shaped by what they read in the media, typically wind up using the wrong terms to report a crime that has occurred to them. Taken for granted without clarifying the circumstances, the dispatcher could wind up dispatching the call with the same incorrect terminology as used by the caller.

Obviously in training, telecommunicators are taught to ask questions. All telephone contacts contain some elements of conversation, interviewing, and counseling. Interviewing is the key issue in this case. How are dispatchers trained in identifying the elements of a crime and interpreting them expediently from a caller?

APCO Institute's Basic Telecommunicator Training Course includes a generic overview of the elements of crimes, and what terms like "breaking and entering" and "burglary" mean. Guidelines are given to the telecommunicator to determine the specific crime and the action required for the dispatcher. Special attention should be paid to public terminology for various crimes during a call-takers training.

Robbery is usually considered the theft of property from a person by the use or threat of force. The key elements here are "from a person" and "by the use or threat of force." When the victim calls and indicates that his house was robbed, the dispatcher needs to clarify what happened: "Did someone hold you up with a gun or did someone break into your house while you were gone?" or words to that effect which can easily distinguish what the caller means to report. An incorrect interpretation of what is being said by the victim could result in incorrect information being provided to responding units. Since many agencies use a code system, rather than "clear speech," it is extremely important that the dispatcher understands the message from the victim and dispatches the units accordingly.

As in all aspects of emergency services, the dispatcher is a vital link in the chain of events that supplies assistance to the victim of a crim or other emergency. It is extremely important that the information is received and interpreted correctly. As always, training is a key element in accomplishing this goal.

No comments:

Post a Comment