DEPEW — Emergency dispatchers in the Village of Depew have been facing a particularly disturbing challenge at work: a group of people who simultaneously call in, monopolize the dispatch and even go so far as to threaten dispatchers and their families.

“They will call and escalate to where they are constantly swearing at you,” said CSEA Village of Depew White Collar Unit Secretary-Treasurer Shelley Matthews, a senior public safety dispatcher. “They’ll say to us ‘I know where you live, I know how much you make. I pay your salary.’ The verbal abuse our dispatchers are going through; it’s just not necessary.”

Matthews said some callers have even threatened to hurt or kill dispatchers and their families.
According to Matthews, the flooding of calls has occurred several times over the past eight months, apparently initiated by a group called “WNY Audits.”

Callers acting on behalf of this group may call up to 100 times per hour, use voice altering software and disguise the location they are calling from by hiding or spoofing their phone numbers.

These individuals will call and attempt to interrogate dispatchers about what they can and cannot record on video, ask personal questions about police officers and will often escalate to threats when dispatchers will not share personal information about officers or themselves.

The impact on the community is also potentially very serious.

“When there is a true emergency, now we’re delayed from answering them,” said Matthews. “These callers are taking away from someone who may be having a cardiac arrest or other emergency.”
Group members will show up and video officers or dispatchers doing their jobs, often attempting to bait them into confrontation.

Village officials have made changes to try to further protect dispatchers so they can respond to legitimate emergencies in a timely manner.

These measures include dispatchers no longer being required to provide their last name, simply their badge number or first name. The dispatch has also been physically moved to a more secure location, with clear bulletproof barriers that separate dispatchers from the public.

Dispatchers are encouraged to immediately ask if it is an emergency that requires sending help immediately and if not, they are permitted to end the call.

Even with the workers’ dedication to keeping the public safe and the village’s measures, Matthews noted that there does not seem to be an easy solution to stopping these harassing calls due to the anonymous nature of them. Matthews hopes it will not negatively impact staffing, but shared her fears that at least one colleague has talked about leaving their job due to these calls.

— Mathew L. Cantore


About Author

Comments are closed.