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McCarthy: Change In 911 Response Strategy Working

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said incidents in two neighborhoods on the same night this week showed police have the right strategy in reducing the number of 911 calls that officers respond to in person.

CBS 2's Jim Williams reports, starting this week, they're no longer coming right away to reports of things like criminal damage to property, vehicle thefts, garage burglaries, or other crimes in which the suspect is no longer on the scene, and the victim isn't in immediate danger.

Instead, victims will be told to file a report on the phone or by going to their local district station, to free up the equivalent of 44 officers a day for patrol duties.

Police said, on Monday, two sets of incidents showed why the new guidelines should help officers respond more quickly to true emergencies.

On Monday, a caller in the Chicago Lawn District made an emergency call to report the catalytic converter had been stolen from his car. At the same time, in the same area, there were 911 calls for domestic disturbances.

Just after midnight that night, a 911 call from the Grand Central District reported a stolen wallet. At the same time, nearby, a caller said someone was being beaten.

McCarthy said, "Those are anecdotes that really support what we've been saying."

The superintendent said some crimes are better handled on the phone, so officers can stay on the streets.

"If the officers are tied up on a different call for service, they're not available for the emergencies, and they're not available to do proactive patrols, so that they can do things to prevent crimes from happening," he said.

Clarence Thomas, the deputy director of the city's 911 Center, was a police officer for 28 years.

He said it could take 30 to 45 minutes for an officer to respond in person to a call about a stolen car and fill out the necessary paperwork.

Police said that half hour could be the difference between life and death in another crime.

McCarthy conceded some callers might make false claims in an effort to lure officers to a less serious crime scene, but that's a felony.

Although it's unclear if she was motivated by the change in 911 policy, a Harvey woman was charged with felony disorderly conduct this week, after she called 911 to report her 1-year-old son had been abducted when her car was stolen with the baby inside.

Though the car had been stolen, it turned out her son was in daycare, and she'd lied about the abduction to get police to search for her car.

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