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When to Call Police

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When you call the police regarding a situation requiring police response, it is Costa Mesa PD’s goal to provide the citizens of Costa Mesa with the highest quality and most efficient service possible. To help serve you better, here are some guidelines to use when calling the police department. Try to remain calm and answer the operator’s questions to the best of your ability.

What is considered an “emergency”?
An emergency is a life-threatening medical emergency, fire, crime in progress, or an injury traffic collision. If you’re unsure if your situation is an emergency, call 9-1-1 anyway.

What is a “non-emergency” and what number do I dial?
A non-emergency could be a loud music complaint, a barking dog, a parking complaint, a suspicious person, etc. The number to dial is (714) 754-5252.

What will I be asked?
You may be asked any of the following:

  • Where is the problem located and/or where are you calling from?
  • Why are you calling?
  • What is going on and why do you need the police?
  • What is your name and general information about you?
  • When did the incident occur?
  • What is the suspect's description, including race, sex, clothing, hair color, facial hair, eyeglasses, hat, height, weight, etc.?
  • What is the suspect's vehicle's description, including make, model, color, and license plate number?
  • What is the suspect's direction of travel? If you don’t know compass directions, pick out landmarks in the direction the suspect headed.
  • Provide as much detail as possible.
  • Do you want the police to contact you?

By answering these questions, emergency response will not be delayed. Officers are usually dispatched while you are still on the phone. Your answers help dispatchers relay important information to the officers while en route.

What if I dial 9-1-1 by mistake?
Do not hang up! Before you hang up, tell the dispatcher you have dialed 9-1-1 by mistake. If you hang up and dispatch can’t confirm there is an emergency, an officer will be sent to your home or business to verify. While the officer is confirming the “mistake,” someone involved in a real emergency could have needed a police officer.

Are pay phones different?
You may dial 9-1-1 or an emergency at any pay phone without needing any coins. The phone number and location of the pay phone will show up on the police dispatch monitor.

What about calling 9-1-1 from my cell phone?
Technology is rapidly changing, and your call may go either to the California Highway Patrol or to the city you are calling from. Either way, dispatchers will not know your exact location, only the location of the nearest cell phone tower. If you do get the highway patrol and you need a particular city, they will transfer you. It is recommended you program into your cell phone the non-emergency police numbers for cities you frequently travel through.

The Costa Mesa Police Department would like to thank you in advance for your assistance and being the “eyes and ears” of the department!