I had an odd encounter with the police yesterday.

On my way home from my morning constitutional/coffee run, I noticed a hypodermic needle along the side of the sidewalk. It was sort of on the side of this rock retaining wall, not really in a spot where someone would step on it but the kind of thing that should be dealt with by qualified professionals.

So, I picked up a branch that was nearby and placed it vertically right near the needle to mark the spot, walked the remaining couple of blocks to my condo and called the non-emergency police number.

Where it gets odd is that the woman that answered the phone said that if I didn’t want to pick it up and throw it away myself, that I needed to call 911. Her tone seemed to strongly imply that I was being some kind of a nuisance for not dealing with it myself.

So, I called 911 and they were quite nice and sent someone to get the thing. The officer himself was quite polite and seemed to be sincerely glad that I had brought this to their attention, but man the regular police number was just weird.

I was under the impression that it was illegal to just throw those things away, and that there was some specific procedure that one has to follow for medical (junkie) waste.

Yeah, well accidents happen, and most junkies didn’t get the memo.

I’m much more surprised that they had you call 911 for something which was very clearly not an emergency. At all. Not even a little bit. 911 seems to have become the police “I don’t want to deal with you, go away” number. :rolleyes:

Interesting. What then is the purpose of the regular police number?


Yeah, the whole thing was just strange. I thought that it was a no-no to call 911 for something that was not a crime in progress or emergency situation. The more that I think about it, the less I am able to wrap my head around it.

Well, you definately deserve a big kudos for calling central dispatch’s non-emergency number. Wait!! Did you actually call central dispatch’s non-emergency number, or did you call the front desk of the police department? That would go a long way to explaining it.

Regardless, I wonder if the operator’s instincts were saying that there is something fishy here, and having the call recorded and documented would have been a good idea just in case.

Well, kudos again, anyway. I was speaking to a supervisor at central dispatch just a few days ago. He said that 911 gets calls for all sorts of ridiculously non-emergency stuff. He wasn’t down on the people, though. He felt that people cope to the limit of their abilitiy to do so, and from there they take the path they’ve been drilled to take for decades: Call 911.

For many, if not most, small- to medium-sized police departments, they are one and the same.

I am 99% sure that I did. The listing in the phone book had a number for the front desk and another listed as “non-emergency” so I should think that this was the correct number to call.

The one time I’ve had occasion to call the police non-emergency number, I had better luck. (If memory serves, it was the same as the front desk number, but one navigated through a menu after calling.) I’d gone out to the convenience store late at night, and on my way home saw that the pizza joint on the corner had a broken window. As in, one of the big storefront windows was bust wide open. The person I talked to was very polite, asked me for a few details (did it look like anyone had been inside, etc), and thanked me for calling.

IV drug abuse is common enough in cities the size of Seattle that the cops aren’t likely to dispatch personnel to deal with it. As a rule of thumb, if nobody is in immediate danger, and a cop doesn’t happen to cruise by with anything better to do, you can pretty much forget about police involvement (this I know after having had a car stereo jacked by theives who left fingerprints all over the window, but couldn’t get the cops interested. Or a mail theft where we gave the cops the un-mailman’s license plate #. He was no longer at his address of record, so that was the end of the investigation)

If you have an active neighbohood watch program where you live, it might be effective in shooing away all they types of activities that happen in alleys and vacant lots. But you still have to exert political pressure with the cops: you’ll be phoning in to them for support, not running in wearing red berets. Usually the cops will work with you for a few weeks until word gets out that your neighborhood is unfriendly, then they wait for political presure from whatever neighborhood is struck next.

Does Seattle have a needle-exchange program? The one down in Tacoma works pretty well: hep-C and HIV transmission via shared needles dropped 75%.

The USPS has their own investigators who look into such things much more seriously than the local police department will. In fact, I’m better than 99% certain that local police do not even have jursidiction in cases of theft from a mailbox.

From what I have been told, it is illegal to dispose of needles in such in “regular” trash. I believe it either has to be marked as biohazardous/sharp, or given to a medical waste disposal company for them to deal with.

For small departments that is not correct a lot of the time. Where I work (medium size) if you call the non emergency number you talk to the same person you would talk to on911. In the small town I live in 911 goes to a central county-wide dispatch. The police will be dispatched only by the county dispatcher. The non-emergency number will probably get you a secretary not a dispatcher. Probably what happened to you.