Snoqualmie City Council Unanimously Adopts Ordinance to Prevent 911 System Misuse

On May 13, 2024, the Snoqualmie City Council unanimously adopted Ordinance 1290 to address the misuse of the 911 emergency response system. The new law aims to reduce false emergency service requests, which risk public safety and waste city resources.

The ordinance was proposed because current Washington state law does not specifically cover the misuse of the 911 system.

The Snoqualmie Police Department, contracting 911 services with the Issaquah Police 911 Center, has faced significant challenges with repeated harassing calls. One resident has made 264 calls since January 2023, often calling the non-emergency line but recently using the 911 line directly.

The ordinance aims to deter such behavior and ensure the 911 system is used appropriately. The city anticipates no budget impacts from implementing this ordinance.

The new ordinance gives the Snoqualmie Police Department a tool to deter and address abuse of the 911 system and hold violators accountable. A violation occurs when someone knowingly and repeatedly uses the 911 system or the non-emergency line without a reasonable need for service. Offenders can face fines of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.

Chief Lynch emphasized that the ordinance does not affect good faith requests for emergency assistance. “The department will continue to adhere to its ‘No Call Too Small’ motto,” he assured.

To educate the community about the new ordinance, Chief Lynch mentioned plans for an educational campaign starting next week. “We are working with the police department’s PIO and the city’s PIO to develop an educational campaign that will begin next week. We have also recently scheduled two dates for Coffee with the Chief events, with one being held on the Ridge and one downtown. Those will happen before the end of the month to allow for one-on-one interaction with the community to better explain the ordinance,” he explained.

When asked if the resident responsible for the harassing calls had been notified, Chief Lynch responded, “We are making sure that all of our residents are well aware of what this ordinance means before any enforcement actions are taken.”

Chief Lynch is hopeful that the new ordinance will act as a deterrent. “I am very hopeful that we will never have to enforce this new ordinance and that the mere fact that the ordinance has now been passed into law, making this behavior a misdemeanor, will be a deterrent moving forward,” he stated.

When asked if he has any concerns that the 911 calling behavior will be replaced with a different nuisance behavior Chief Lynch said, “There is always that chance, however, this ordinance addresses a critical need in our community to hold citizens accountable for their actions, to ensure that our dispatchers are able to perform their important duties in a timely manner, and that the safety of our police officers and citizens are not affected by repeated harassing phone calls to our police station and emergency dispatch center.”

Residents can learn more and ask questions at the upcoming “Chat with the Chief” events on May 29 at 10 a.m. and May 30 at 5:30 p.m. Details will be posted on the city’s website and social media channels next week.

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