911? I Want to Order a Large PizzaBy Jennifer Snow
The New Police Code – “Large Pizza”
What would you do to get out of a dangerous situation?
This woman ordered a “Large Pizza” on the 911 hotline, to everyone’s surprise, the police delivered.
Let’s see how it all went down, shall we?
One Call Made The Difference
Tim TenEyck is a 911 dispatcher in Oregon, Ohio. He has answered quite a few 911 calls in his career: With 14 years on the job, Tim thought he had heard everything!
On November 13, Tim received a very strange request which has changed the way he and other dispatchers answers 911 calls from that day.
At first, Tim thought someone was calling the wrong number. In most places, it is a crime to call the emergency line for no good reason!
The woman on the other end had a very strange request. It was definitely something the police station didn’t deliver. The lady wanted pizza, for God’s sake!
Pleading For Pepperoni
Not only did the woman request a pizza for delivery, she wanted large pepperoni! “This is the wrong number to call for a pizza,” Tim said.
“No no no. You’re not understanding me,” the woman replied immediately. It was then that the reality started to dawn on him. Tim’s expert training kicked in, and he knew something was wrong!
Coded In Cheese
Despite being confused by the request at first, Tim’s intuition kicked in. This was no mistake at all, and he began to engage the woman on her terms. “I’m getting you now,” he said after 20 seconds.
It was now clear the caller was trying to covertly alert the authorities to a dangerous situation. Pizza was merely the code!
“Is the other guy still there?” Tim asked. “Yep. I need a large pizza,” the woman said. Tim asked if she needed medical attention. “No. With pepperoni,” she replied.
Now he had the right hunch! Let’s say she was being held hostage. What could she really admit on the line?
A Call To Action
Now, it was time to send assistance. Tim made the call to dispatch police, but he gave them special instructions.
“Alright, turn your sirens off before you get there,” Tim explained. “Caller ordered a pizza, and agreed with everything I said.” How did the dispatcher know to do this so smoothly, you ask?
A Regular Sleuth
Tim says he’s answered many domestic disturbance calls in his many years of service. But this one really took the calzone!
“You see it on Facebook, but it’s not something that anybody has ever been trained for. We’re just trained to listen,” the veteran said. Despite the gossip that trained 911 workers know how to launch into an automatic script when prompted with pizza, Tim really just used his gut.
Tricky And Sneaky
Local Police Chief Michael Navarre told the news that he has never heard of pizza as a cry for help — not even in 42 years on the force!
“Somehow or another, convey to that police dispatcher that you are in trouble, and this woman did that. She did that not with her words, but with the tone of her voice,” he explained. Where did she get this idea in the first place, though?
Rumor Has It
Apparently, a 2015 Super Bowl ad featured a woman who called 911 to order a pizza to ask for help in another domestic abuse scenario. Maybe the idea subliminally stuck with her?
Some police departments have now said they are wary of this tactic, however. They are worried that a food order will not be obvious enough to explain a dangerous, time-sensitive situation!
Social media immediately swirled with rumors that police secretly know this code, and it’s not really true!
Punch Drunk Love
When the police came in the door, they arrested Simon Lopez for allegedly punching, threatening, and pushing the mother of the pizza caller into a wall.
The victim would describe her boyfriend as “disorderly, loud, verbally, and physically abusive” in the report. This led to a formal charge of domestic violence and disorderly conduct while intoxicated after the ordeal was over. For the record, Lopez denied the allegations.
No Slipping Away
The victim’s daughter told a local television station that she called 911 in such a novel way for a specific reason. If the drunk, menacing man figured out the police were on the way, he might escape!
This tactic was ideal because the assailant was none the wiser, and police arrived at the scene without an additional fight. Clever lady! But how common are these coded food calls, according to 911 professionals?
Not His First Time
In fact, Tim says he’s taken actual wrong number calls to order pizza before! About the half the calls like this seem to be real mistakes, so how did he know this one was no joke?
Mr. Lopez was ultimately nabbed because Tim was taught to listen to each call very carefully. There must have been something in her voice!
“If it’s your only option, and that abusive person is next to you and listening to everything you say, then by all means — you call and order that pizza,” he advises. Is there an even better option, though?
The Force Weighs In
Some people might think a 911 call is the only available action in an emergency. According to the LAPD, “This is false. Text to 911 is a much better option…Your exact location & the nature of your emergency is what’s needed to send the right resources.”
Good to know there is another covert option for victims looking for help! But it’s best to check ahead of time with your local precinct. According to Tim, the small Oregon, Ohio location did not have an SMS service! Does yours?
Police want the public to know more about surviving domestic violence. If possible, it’s important to provide the right information and stay on the 911 line!
Staying on the phone as long as you can allows a dispatcher to hear more signs of danger, like gunshots, yelling, or loud dogs.
Make sure to say full names, if possible. We all know a few too many John’s and Bob’s! It is also recommended to make up a reason to use the phone if the criminal is in the room. While the subject of this unusual story was pizza, pretending to call the electric company could also be a great idea!
And Tim? The chief of police publicly congratulated him! “He handled the call beautifully and it had a happy ending.” No one could disagree. Great work, buddy!
But wait, what about those 911 food call fails?
The truth is, 911 dispatchers have busy shifts. They may get between 300 and 500 phone calls a day, each one a potential life threatening emergency! A job like that lacks predictable down time, that’s for sure. But are all of these calls really emergencies?
According to a dispatcher in Canada, not really! Amanda has been on the emergency team for eight years, and has a lot to say about the topic: “Ninety-five percent are nothing calls…They’re not people who need help. They’re people who have low coping skills. The fact you don’t know how to change the batteries in your fire alarm is not a 911 call. The fact you don’t know where you parked your car at the mall is not a 911 call. But you’ll have days where it seems that’s all you get.”
Yikes, are people really that theatrical out there?
Kung Pao Emergency
In 2015, an Ohio woman was arrested after calling 911 to complain about bad Chinese food. No joke, people!
The dissatisfied customer placed the call from the site of her traumatic event, Main Moon Chinese Restaurant. Needless to say, the call in no way qualified as an emergency. After explaining the meal was “not up to par for her liking”, police charged her with a misdemeanor for misusing the 911 line!
Is she alone in this drama, though?
As it turns out, people misuse the 911 line all the time! One Illinois man placed a call to schedule an ambulance to his doctor’s appointment several hours in advance.
When he initially called the emergency line, he was encouraged to have a friend take him to the appointment. To get around this suggestion, he claimed to be having chest pains. But this was never true! When paramedics arrived, it was clear there was no dangerous situation of any kind. The man didn’t want any immediate medical care at all, just a convenient ride.
Was he charged with a crime? You betcha! Misusing 911 is no joke, people. Sometimes though, there can be accidental calls. What are dispatchers currently dealing with all the time now?
All over the nation, people have been butt dialing emergency lines! Yes, that’s right: Night and day, those cheeks keep calling out for help. It must be pretty confusing for dispatchers, hearing muffled sounds and no answer!
According to the Federal Communications Commission, around half of all 911 calls in NYC are accidental. Adding that all up, this means 84 million calls each year are a waste of resources! But are all booty calls really useless to 911?
Mismatch At Dispatch
For the most part, fake calls are not doing the public any favors. FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly explained: “This is a huge waste of resources, raises the cost of providing 911 services, depletes PSAP morale, and increases the risk that legitimate 911 calls—and first responders—will be delayed.”
But occasionally, there are some gems! One veteran Michigan dispatcher recalled: “We once had a police chase going on and the people being pursued accidentally dialed into 911 so we could hear their conversation and let the officers know their plan.” That must have really surprised the ass-backwards crooks, betrayed by their own big butts!