People Search Google For Dialing The Police. Why Not 911?

Jan 20, 2011 • 8:42 am | comments (13) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Maps

A Google Web Search Help thread has claims from a person who works at the San Angelo Finance Department that since December 1, 2010, he has been receiving several calls a day meant for the San Angelo Police Department.

This user said he reported the error to Google three times, starting back on December 1st. But Google has still yet to fix the issue.

If you Google [San Angelo Police Department] you get the wrong phone number. You get the phone number to his desk at the Finance Department. The correct number is 325-657-4498 and not what is listed there. Here is a screen shot:

Google Maps Police Bug

This person fields several calls per day from people trying to call the police. One example this person gave was very sad:

17 more calls today. The listing is still wrong. I had a rape victim call and leave a voicemail after hours that her offender was harassing her. 14 hours after she left it I picked it up and was able to forward it to the police. I am not exaggerating.

Can you imagine!

What I do not fully understand is why someone who needs the police would go to Google and search for the phone number. Doesn't 911 work? Why don't people just dial 911? Why doesn't Google just list all police stations as a secondary or even primary number in the U.S. as 911?

This is not the first time we have seen Google Maps mess with emergencies. They have sent people to the wrong hospital in the past.

I am probably over simplifying this, so feel free to rant in the comments.

Forum discussion at Google Web Search Help.

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Arun Pal SIngh

01/20/2011 02:46 pm

Too much dependence on anything is dangerous.

Sébastien Billard

01/20/2011 04:18 pm

On we have a onebox results showing emergency number when searching for the french equivalent of "police number" ou "fire number"... There was also that story in autralia of girls trapped during a flood that updated their facebook wall instead of calling directly emergency service...

Martin Macdonald

01/20/2011 04:48 pm

well, not all calls to the police are an emergency so therefore should not go via the emergency number. Furthermore people may be trying to contact a specific police employee at that department. There are probably more reasons, but frankly I don't think a blanket dial 911 (or 999 here in the UK) to speak to the police is a healthy point of view Barry.

Barry Schwartz

01/20/2011 04:50 pm

Yea, but if I was raped, I would call 911.

Michael Martinez

01/20/2011 04:58 pm

"What I do not fully understand is why someone who needs the police would go to Google and search for the phone number." Because 911 is only supposed to be used for emergencies, and oftentimes people need to contact the police department for other reasons. For example, as a victim of identity theft I have had to contact the police through a non-emergency number. Also, to ask questions about procedures, I have had to call the department directly rather than go through 911. It is, in fact, a crime (in many if not all) localities to use 911 for trivial calls to the police. Maybe most of the trivial calls are ignored but you can still be arrested and fined for wasting 911 operators' time and tying up emergency resources.

Barry Schwartz

01/20/2011 04:59 pm

Like I said, If I was raped, I'd call 911.

Anna Bourland

01/20/2011 05:51 pm

But she wasn't raped that night, she was reporting the rapist in her existing case was harassing her. That's different. I mean perhaps I'd call 911 for that, but there are tons of reasons someone would call the police department and not 911. Like if there's a loud party, or something along those lines.


01/20/2011 06:25 pm

That's really not the point is it. The point is the all mighty Google is giving out the wrong information and it needs to be fixed but because Google could really care less about their uses, it won't unless a big fuss is made about it in the mainstream media.

Barry Schwartz

01/20/2011 06:26 pm

Yea, I agree.


01/20/2011 07:00 pm

As Michael pointed out... There is some legitimacy to calling the police versus 911. In fact, when you call 911 I believe the recording says "if this is not an emergency, please hang up and call the police." (You can test the for me.) So when someone broke into my car... not an emergency... had to go searching for the police phone number so I could get on their police report waiting list. ... but I agree, I think someone who has been raped should get a pass on the "emergency" semantics.


01/20/2011 07:02 pm

Amazing what a little peer pressure can do.... can even move Google to act.

AccuraCast Limited

01/21/2011 11:18 am

The emergency number to dial differs from country to country. In the UK it's 999, in France it's 112 and so on. So for one, if she was a foreigner, she might not have known. Another reason might have been that in a state of panic, one's mind can blank out fairly obvious things

Mark Kenson

02/16/2011 04:57 am

The network has a number of applications that are meant to make searches easier among other things.

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