Trevor Noah had an interesting bit posted on YouTube regarding a fee for calling the cops that I thought was worth discussing.
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) 2018 May 15
What he suggests here is that a lot of prank and non-police matter calls are made because there is very little consequence to calling 911. For sake of humor he disregards obstruction of justice. However, I do think his suggestion is relatively well-founded.
It’s well studied that even an incremental cost will change people’s behavior. Money has become one of the most powerful motivators in modern society. Even a dollar discourages a lot of behavior. Given that, Noah’s suggestion is simple, just bill the caller $5 and give it back if it was a legitimate call.
Now of course, that reimbursement might make it hard to actually get – but I’m not sure if that matter all that much. If the caller is poor and really needs the money, they will make sure to get it back. If automated reimbursements fail, a simple online or callbot system where you give a case number to get reimbursed might be sufficient. For the rich, they may ignore the fee and now the police department has more revenue it can use for public safety. And for the people who made an illegitimate call, at least the department gets something for their efforts.