Lessons learned while working in dispatch

Published 7:40 am Thursday, September 24, 2015

I recently broke my ankle and am now on light duty, sitting at dispatch.

I have always had the utmost respect and gratitude for this thankless job and the awesome people who sit there day in and day out answering phone calls, the radio, dispatching police, fire, medical personnel and utilities. After dispatching to an emergency, they sit there and wait for a response and breathe a sigh of relief when their people are safe and everything is under control.

They listen to the calls and decide who should be contacted next. They listen to the yells and screaming in the background and try to pry the address from the caller. They hear the gasping of the breaths and coughing while dispatching an ambulance and keep talking to the victim until help arrives. They save live lives, deliver babies, satisfy your needs and answer questions on the phone while listening to 3, 4 or 5 radios all at once while taking care of citizens who walk in to the lobby of dispatch.

If you know a dispatcher or come across one, thank them for their behind-the-scenes heroics. They are truly the unsung heroes!

George, Jo, Suzi, Pam, Larry, Jenny, Eric, John, Nikki, Heather, Lois, Lorena, Billy, Amanda, Nicole and Stephanie, (just to name a few I have worked with over the years) I know I have missed many on afternoons and midnights and other departments, but we know you are there for us. If you are interested in becoming a dispatcher, call Cathy Jackson at (269) 683-4700 or check the website at www.nilesmi.org

While sitting here, I have had contact with many citizens and answered calls about scams. It seems the scams are in full swing again. I would like to take this opportunity to give some crime prevention tips to avoid becoming a victim of these thieves.

A popular scam lately has to do with people looking for jobs and posting resumes online. Three people have come in to the Law Enforcement Complex this week alone to report a possible scam.

The “target” receives a legitimate UPS envelope with a check for a large amount of money (this week they have been more than $2,000). There has been phone and text contact with the target from the scammer. The target is asked to be the “secret shopper,” testing customer service and comparing prices. They are told to keep expenses and “X” number of dollars for salary. They are to send the remaining money back in a certified money order or bank check. There is usually a time limit to do this.

By the time the bad guy receives the real money, the target is informed the check was fraudulent and now the target has to pay back the money to the bank, leaving the target to come up with $1,000 or more, usually.

Another popular scam since I have been answering phones has to do with contractor fraud. Subjects have been hanging out in hardware store or someplace similar and listening for their “targets” to say they need work done. They step in and offer, stating they have a licensed team who will do the job. The subject will show up stating they need a down payment and may or may not actually do some work then get more money and not come back.

If you have someone you did not contact do a job, follow up with some information. Look them up on a list of licensed contractors, call the Better Business Bureau, and/or get references. You should get contracts detailing payments and schedules.

Do not give out personal information over the phone, such as full names, credit card numbers or bank information. Just because the caller says they are from a government agency, doesn’t mean they are.

A caller this week received a call allegedly from the IRS stating they are behind in taxes and there is a warrant for their arrest. By sending $500 bond, the warrant will “go away.”

Another caller got a phone call from, allegedly, the MSP Gaming Section. I asked if he has been in Detroit to the casino and he replied, “no.” Obviously someone was misidentifying themselves.

One citizen walked in showing a letter that they won the Spanish lottery. All they needed to do was send a “processing fee of $500” to get their three million Euro check for winning the lottery. I asked if they ever bought a Spanish lottery ticket or had even been to Spain. They smiled, realizing this was obviously a scam, and left, throwing the letter away.

If you have not suffered any financial loss or identity theft, police will usually not take a report.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Keep your personal information personal. Most banks and government agencies will not call and ask or solicit information from you. If you are in doubt, go to your bank or contact the local agency and verify if they solicited you. Be aware.


Rob Herbstreith is a community service trooper with the Michigan State Police Niles Post. Any questions or comments can be emailed to him at TrooperRob53@yahoo.com, or you can call Trooper Rob at (269) 683-4411.