Despite 311 non emergency number, calls to Philadelphia’s 911 not going down

Philadelphia’s non-emergency assistance service, 311, is coming under fire.  

City Controller Alan Butkovitz says 311 is not doing its job to relieve Philadelphia’s overburdened 911 system.  His report shows calls to 911 have decreased only slightly.

“In other cities 311 has substantially reduced the number of non-emergency calls to 911,” said Butkovitz.  “Baltimore saw a 50 percent reduction in non-emergency calls to 911, in San Antonio experience a 30 percent reduction, while Houston realized a 14 percent reduction and Denver a 12 percent reduction.”

Since most medical calls to 911 prompt an ambulance to be sent, Butkovitz says diverting non-emergency calls to 311 would save money.

“There’s a lot of unnecessary calls to 911 we’ve discussed that on rescue squad dispatch and it’s at the cost of $1,100 or $1,200 every time they send out a rescue squad,” he said.

Philadelphia’s Managing Director says the 311 project is only in phase one and has been cut back due to budget problems.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.