TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Although it may not be surprising, 911 calls increase during times of tourism peaks in this Northwest Michigan town (for example, the annual National Cherry Festival last week), but why is this?
Jim Danek, a 911 dispatcher, says, “Calls increase due to the amount of alcohol consumed during the National Cherry Festival and around the Fourth of July holiday. Both for medical and behavior issues. Traffic collisions increase due to the increased number of vehicles on the roadways and add some really cool air shows to distract the drivers and it’s an obvious recipe for disaster.”
Danek worked a total of 40 hours of overtime during the National Cherry Festival week. He says, “There is hardly a shortage of overtime shifts available during the Cherry Festival. Generally, there is an extra person scheduled during the days where we are expecting a lager influx of people in town.
“We had extra people inside the center on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the opening weekend, July 4, and Friday and Saturday at festival end. The shifts in that center are in addition to the person working in the command trailer at the Open Space.”
Below is a figure comparing the dispatcher to citizen ratio for Traverse City.
Penny Fischer, who holds a doctorate in criminal justice, says, “Difficulties that happen due to tourism, or in our case visitors to our campus, are their unfamiliarity with the roads, laws, ordinances, and high volume pedestrian traffic.
“Traffic accidents can happen when people are not familiar with their surroundings or looking at a map. GPS devices have helped in that way, but now we see the increase in texting while driving causing accidents. Thefts happen when tourists think they can leave their car unlocked, personal items in view for thieves to steal, or residence halls leaving doors unlocked and sometimes persons unaware of their surroundings can become victimized by assaultive crimes.”
Fischer adds that this usually shouldn’t effect dispatch times, though. “Theoretically, an increase in numbers of callers should affect dispatch times, but in reality the 911 center often adds personnel during large scale events to address this issue.
“In addition, technology is very enhanced to allow dispatchers to capture information from a caller must faster than in earlier times; and send that information electronically to the officer(s) dispatched in their patrol computers,” she says.
Anna Endresen, a citizen of Traverse City, witnessed a 911 call on the Fourth of July and says she was impressed as the responders came in a calm, diligent matter. “They got there within a matter of minutes, it was crazy. Just like that they were there and helping. Everyone was really appreciative.”
Cody Davis, another citizen of Traverse City, agrees and says, “Just about every interaction I saw involving police over Cherry Fest was helpful and positive. I was seriously impressed with how well they handled all of the people this year.”