how to call local police

How to Call Your Local Police: A Comprehensive Guide

Knowing how to call your local police department is an essential life skill everyone should possess. Whether you are witnessing a crime, need help in an emergency, or reporting suspicious activity, the ability to communicate with law enforcement effectively can make all the difference in resolving a situation quickly and safely. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about calling your local police department efficiently and confidently.

Understanding Emergency vs. Non-Emergency Situations

The first step in calling your local police department is knowing whether your situation qualifies as an emergency. An emergency situation requires immediate assistance from law enforcement, fire departments, or ambulance services. Examples of emergencies include:

  • Car accidents with injuries
  • Robberies or burglaries in progress
  • Fires or explosions
  • Serious medical emergencies
  • Physical assaults or violence happening at the moment

If you are experiencing any of these situations, it is essential to dial 911 immediately. Dialing 911 will connect you with an emergency dispatch operator who can quickly direct your call to the appropriate responders.

If your situation is not an emergency, it’s best to use your local police department’s non-emergency number. Non-emergency calls are those that require law enforcement assistance but do not pose an immediate threat to life or property. Examples of non-emergency calls include:

  • Noise complaints
  • Suspicious activity in your neighborhood
  • Reporting lost or stolen property
  • Vandalism or graffiti
  • Minor traffic accidents with no injuries involved.

In general, if you are unsure whether your situation qualifies as an emergency, it’s always best to call 911. Emergency dispatch operators are trained to assess situations quickly and determine the appropriate response.

Finding Your Local Police Department’s Phone Number

Now that you know when to call 911 and when to use your local police department’s non-emergency number, the next step is finding the correct phone number for your specific town or city. Here are some tips for locating your local police department’s phone number:

  • Search online: A quick online search using keywords “Police department + [your city/town]” can often lead you to the correct phone number.
  • Call City Hall or Town Hall: If you’re unsure of where to find your local police department’s phone number, calling your city hall or town hall is a good place to start. They often have access to contact information for all city services, including law enforcement.
  • Reach out to friends or neighbors: You can also ask friends or neighbors if they know how to contact the police department in your area.

Preparing to Make the Call

Once you have located the correct phone number, it’s essential to gather information before making the call. Having all relevant information at hand can help officers respond more efficiently. Here are some things you should prepare ahead of time:

  • The location of the incident: Be as specific as possible when describing the location of the incident. Providing street names, landmarks, or building numbers can help officers locate you quickly.
  • Description of situation: Be clear and concise when explaining what has happened. Avoid exaggeration or speculation about what may have occurred and describe facts about what you have seen or heard.
  • Any additional details helpful for officers to know: Is anyone in immediate danger? Are there any suspects or vehicles present at the scene? Any information you can provide can assist officers in their response.

Making the Call

Now that you have gathered all necessary information, it’s time to dial either the emergency number or the non-emergency number, depending on your situation. Here’s a step-by-step guide for making the call:

  • Provide your location: Start by telling the operator where you are, including your city or town and street address if possible. Provide details about any landmarks or identifying features nearby, such as a tall building, a statue, or a distinctive store sign.
  • Explain the situation: Explain what has happened calmly and clearly. Stick to facts and avoid speculation or assumptions. Give as much detail as possible about what you have witnessed.
  • Answer follow-up questions: Be prepared to answer any follow-up questions that the operator may ask you. They may need more information to understand the situation fully.
  • End the call politely: When you’re done answering questions, politely thank the operator and hang up. Wait for instructions from responding officers before hanging up if they ask you to wait on the line.

Tips for Communicating with Emergency Dispatchers and Police Officers

Communicating with emergency dispatchers and police officers can be stressful, but remaining calm and clear is vital for an effective response. Here are some tips for communicating effectively during these situations:

  • Breathe deeply and try to stay calm: Take a deep breath and try to remain as calm as possible, even in stressful situations.
  • Speak slowly and enunciate clearly: Ensure that your words are clear and concise by speaking slowly and enunciating your words well.
  • Listen carefully: Listen carefully to the questions that are being asked of you, and answer them as accurately as possible.
  • Don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t know something or are unsure: It’s okay if you are unsure about something. Be honest and respectful with the operator or officer.
  • Don’t make assumptions or exaggerate: Avoid making assumptions or exaggerating the situation. Be honest about what you have witnessed without adding any speculative commentary.

Preparing for Police Arrival

While waiting for officers to arrive, there are a few things you can do to prepare. Here are some tips:

  • Safely secure pets or children: Make sure that your pets and children are somewhere safe while officers arrive at the scene.
  • Leave lights on outside: Turning on outdoor lights or porch lights can help officers locate your home more easily, especially if it’s dark outside.
  • Communicate with neighbors: Informing neighbors about your situation can be helpful, especially if they see anything suspicious in their area.

Dealing with Difficult Situations

Situations where language barriers, physical disabilities, or mental health concerns exist can be challenging to deal with. However, it is essential to remain calm and communicate effectively. Here are some tips:

  • Use simple language when explaining what has happened if a language barrier exists or if someone has trouble hearing clearly.
  • If someone needs medical attention, provide first aid if you feel qualified. If you’re unsure, wait for first responders to arrive.
  • If someone shows signs of a mental health crisis, stay with them if it’s safe to do so. Don’t make assumptions or escalate the situation.

Follow-up Steps After Calling the Police

After you have made a report to the police, you may wonder what will happen next. Here are some follow-up steps to consider:

  • Follow up with the police department: If you want to know the outcome of your report, call the non-emergency number and ask for an update.
  • Document the incident for insurance purposes: Take photos if possible, and write down everything you remember about the incident. This can be helpful if you need to file an insurance claim later.


In conclusion, knowing how to call your local police department is an important life skill. Understanding when to call 911 and when to use your local police department’s non-emergency number is crucial. Remembering to gather all necessary information before making a call and communicating effectively with emergency dispatchers and responding officers can make all the difference in resolving situations quickly and safely. Stay calm, be honest, and provide factual information. Share this information with your friends and family so they too can be equipped with this essential knowledge.

FAQs: How to Call Local Police

1. When should I call the local police?

If you see a crime in progress, someone is in danger or harmed, or you have an emergency, call the local police immediately. Any suspicious activity should also be reported—better safe than sorry.

2. What number should I dial to reach the local police?

For emergencies, dial 911. For non-emergencies and to report crimes that do not require immediate attention, call the non-emergency police or sheriff’s department phone number for your area. You can find this number online or in the phone book.

3. What information will I need to provide when making a report?

  • Your name and location
  • Nature of the situation (crime in progress, suspicious behavior, etc.)
  • Description of the suspect(s)
  • Description of any vehicles involved
  • Location of the incident
  • Any injuries or damage caused by the incident

4. What should I do if there is a language barrier?

If you are having trouble communicating with the operator because of a language barrier, try saying “no speak English” and re-dialing 911. This will connect you with a translator who can assist you.

5. Can I remain anonymous when calling the local police?

Yes, you can remain anonymous when reporting a crime. However, providing your name and contact information may be helpful for follow-up questions.

6. Can I get in trouble for reporting a false crime?

Yes, it is illegal to make a false police report. Penalties for making false reports can range from fines to imprisonment, and wasting police time and resources can put lives at risk.

7. What should I do if the local police don’t respond in a timely manner?

  • Remain calm and patient.
  • Re-dial 911 or the non-emergency number after 15-20 minutes.
  • If you still do not receive a response, reach out to your local government representative for assistance.

If you have any other questions or concerns, contact your local police department for more information. Remember: calling the local police in an emergency can save lives and prevent crimes from occurring.

keys takeaways

4 Key Takeaways for Calling Local Police

  1. Stay Calm: When calling the local police, it is crucial to remain calm and convey all necessary details accurately. Speak clearly and slowly, providing all relevant information needed.
  2. Know Your Location: When speaking to the dispatcher, be sure to communicate your exact location. Be specific, including building or apartment numbers, intersections and landmarks.
  3. Provide Specific Details: Provide the dispatcher with as much detail as possible; including the type of crime, any visible weapons, an accurate description of suspect(s), and any other important information that you may have.
  4. Follow Instructions: Follow the dispatcher’s instructions closely. Stay on the phone until instructed to hang up and wait until police arrive. Do not take any unnecessary risks until authorities are on scene.

By following these essential steps, you can help your local police department respond quickly and effectively to emergencies or incidents in your area.