Communications specialists in the Wayne County Emergency Communications Center last year answered 44,592 calls to 911, but more than one out of five times, nobody was on the line.

The number of 911 hang-ups increased 40.0% from 2022 to 9,646, according to statistics released by the ECC. Matthew Cain, the county’s 911 director and director of the Emergency Management Agency, said new technology enabling phones that are jarred hard enough to automatically dial 911 has boosted the hang-up numbers. It’s an industrywide concern, and Cain said stopgaps and safeguards within technology upgrades have recently improved the situation.

Law enforcement officers were only dispatched 249 times to investigate hang-ups. Cain said that occurs when there’s a history at the address or dispatchers hear through an open line something that concerns them.

The hang-ups accounted for 21.6% of 2023’s 911 calls, which increased 11.2% from 2022 but remain in line with 911 call numbers dating to 2018. The center also received 502 texts to 911 — a 15.4% increase — and texted 5,976 times in response to 911 texts or calls.

Overall, the ECC’s specialists handled 314.6 calls per day, a jump from 306.4 in 2022. In addition to the 911 calls, that includes receiving 49,380 administrative calls and placing 20,870 administrative calls. The overall call number, again, falls in line with previous years.

“It’s where we’ve historically been,” said Cain, who in 2023 was named director of the year by the Indiana 911 Professionals. “There are highs, there are lows, there are peaks, there are valleys, but we’ve not seen drastic changes.”

Cain said he’s proud of the 20 full-time and three part-time employees who staff the ECC 24 hours a day. Five dispatchers are generally on duty, with a staffing minimum of four. The ECC has six consoles for additional staff if necessary, such as for large-scale events. Cain; Erin Campbell, the ECC’s deputy director; and Jon Duke, the deputy director for EMA, all maintain emergency communications certifications.

During 2023, the dispatchers handled 55,885 calls for service for the county’s eight law enforcement agencies and 16,484 calls for service for the 14 fire and EMS agencies. The law enforcement service calls increased 1.8% from 2022, while the fire/EMS service calls increased 4.2%.

Law enforcement

Service calls for the county’s six town agencies — Cambridge City, Centerville, Fountain City, Greens Fork, Hagerstown and Milton — grew by 2,072 calls to 10,606, a 24.3% increase. Those calls were 19.0% of the total law enforcement service calls.

WWN graphic by Mike Emery

By contrast, Richmond Police Department’s 30,397 service calls were a 2.1% decrease from 2022, although they accounted for 54.4% of the overall call total. The Wayne County Sheriff’s Office also saw a 2.6% dip with 14,882 service calls, which were 26.6% of the county total.

Milton’s new town marshal handled 344 service calls during 2023 after the town had zero service calls during 2022. Hagerstown’s calls for service jumped 40.6% to 2,309, Centerville’s rose 26.2% to 3,575, Cambridge City’s increased 12.3% to 3,979 and Fountain City had a modest 3.8% bump to 380. Greens Fork’s service calls decreased 87.4% to 19 for the year.

Cain said stabilized staffing levels at town agencies helped increase officer-initiated service calls, such as traffic stops, special patrols and business checks. The six town agencies performed 837 more traffic stops in 2023, 329 more business checks and 36 more special patrols for a total increase of 1,202. In those categories, Richmond, which was significantly understaffed, performed 537 fewer traffic stops, 727 fewer business checks and 86 fewer special patrols for 1,350 fewer calls. The sheriff’s department performed 69 more traffic stops, but executed 153 fewer business checks and 10 fewer special patrols for a total decrease of 94 calls in those categories.

The eight county law enforcement agencies performed 7,118 traffic stops during 2023, the leading law enforcement service and second-most event handled by dispatchers. Other frequent law enforcement calls for service include 4,066 speak with an officer calls; 2,902 motor vehicle accidents; 2,829 calls involving animal bites, neglect or problems; 2,534 business checks; 2,408 domestic situations, with 1,643 verbal and 765 physical; 1,433 calls for robberies, thefts, vehicle thefts or thefts from vehicles; and 1,195 calls for people with a mental or emotional problem, suicidal people or suicides.

Among other types of calls, agencies also responded to 416 burglary calls, 295 battery calls, 245 overdose calls, 29 shooting calls and 21 stabbing calls. Call categories are not always substantiated when officers arrive.

EMA activity

Wayne County EMA issues weather and travel advisories, watches and warnings and responds to hazardous materials incidents.

During 2023, EMA issued 84 advisories, watches or warnings, including one Level 1 travel advisory for a Jan. 24, 2023, winter storm. Eighteen advisories were issued for strong thunderstorms, and nine severe thunderstorm warnings were issued. Eight advisories each were issued for wind and frost, and seven severe thunderstorm watches were issued.

The 84 advisories, watches and warnings were 20.0% fewer than the 105 from 2022.

EMA also handled 28 hazmat incidents. Of those, 21 involved transportation, including 13 on Interstate 70. Substances spilled included diesel fuel, motor oil, gasoline, fuel oil, milk, mineral oil and vegetable oil.

The 28 responses were 64.7% more than 2022’s 17 responses. Transportation accounted for 12 of 2022’s responses, including seven on I-70.

Traffic stops lead 7 county police departments’ activities 

Wayne County’s eight law enforcement agencies went on 55,885 calls for service during 2023. That’s an increase of 1,004 — or 1.8% — from 2022, but it’s far lower than the 59,438 calls during 2021 or 70,917 calls during 2020. Here is the breakdown by agency:

Cambridge City Police Department performed 3,979 service calls during 2023. That’s an increase of 436 calls — or 12.3% — from 2022’s 3,543.

The top activities were: traffic stops, 810; speak with an officer, 445; investigation, 177; welfare check, 96; suspicious person, 87; and suspicious vehicle, 79.

Centerville Police Department performed 3,575 service calls during 2023. That’s an increase of 743 calls — or 26.2% — from 2022’s 2,832.

The top activities were: traffic stops, 1,056; speak with an officer, 401; welfare check, 119; animal problem, 96; and juvenile problem, 82.

Fountain City Police Department performed 380 service calls during 2023. That’s an increase of 14 calls — or 3.8% — from 2022’s 366.

The top activities were: business checks, 58; traffic stops, 57; investigations, 46; speak with an officer, 28; and VIN/HIN checks, 20.

Greens Fork Police Department performed 19 service calls during 2023. That’s a decrease of 132 calls — or 87.4% — from 2022’s 151.

The top activities were: traffic stops, 4; parking complaints, 2; grass fires, 2; and animal problems, 2.

Hagerstown Police Department performed 2,309 service calls during 2023. That’s an increase of 667 — or 40.6% — from 2022’s 1,642.

The top activities were: traffic stops, 439; speak with an officer, 292; business checks, 201; suspicious vehicle, 83; and investigation, 76.

Milton Police Department performed 344 service calls during 2023. The department did not have any numbers to report during 2022.

The top activities were: traffic stops, 224; business checks, 10; speak with an officer, 8; welfare checks, 8; and suspicious vehicles, 6.

Richmond Police Department performed 30,397 service calls during 2023. That’s a decrease of 666 calls — or 2.1% — from 2022’s 31,063.

The top activities were: traffic stops, 2,470; speak with an officer, 2,061; welfare checks, 1,538; suspicious person, 1,483; and animal problems, 1,474.

Wayne County Sheriff’s Office performed 14,882 service calls during 2023. That’s a decrease of 402 — or 2.6% — from 2022’s 15,284.

The top activities were: traffic stops, 2,058; serving court paperwork, 1,320; speak with an officer, 831; animal problem, 763; and business checks, 761.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 14 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.