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.
This morning there were reports of discriminatory actions taken on Yale University’s campus against a black graduate student by a fellow dormitory resident and the local police.
As I followed the story, I noticed something odd. The victim was clearly identified. Age, racial profile, name, gender, even area of study. However none of the aggressors of the story were being reported – just simply “a fellow resident” was how the initial caller was referred to. The police officers were not identified as well (although their actions were less clearly egregious. They made the victim wait an extra 15 minutes for confirmation of ID).
On a broader point, I would love to see news articles focus on the aggressor in these types of reports. The victim did very little wrong, so why profile them so much? Many people just want to move on and live their lives without the attention of the viral web. Instead, let’s focus on the offenders, they should be getting the higher level of scrutiny so that their actions are well known and recognized.
Edit: It looks like it took an extra day but the aggressor’s name is now being widely reported on news outlets like the Washington Post.