GREGG COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Non-emergency calls to 911 have spiked since state and local governments have issued stay-at-home orders to stop the spread of COVID-19, according to Lt. Josh Tubb with the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office.
“Not only is the virus itself affecting the public as well as people’s reaction, but since the declarations have come out, our dispatch center has been bombarded with 911 calls," Tubb said.
He said he has spoken with the dispatch supervisor and learned that 911 calls have doubled and that a lot of the increase if due to non-emergency calls.
Those non-emergency calls have included questions about the local stay-at-home orders issued by Longview Mayor Andy Mack and Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt.
Those orders went into effect on March 26. It mandates that residents stay inside their homes unless they are engaged in certain “essential activities”. Residents out of the home for necessary tasks are instructed to stay at least six feet away from others.
Under the orders, essential businesses are encouraged to stay open but only use essential staff and they must comply with social distancing requirements.
“If you’re simply asking questions, please do not call 911. That may be tying up a line that someone needs. Someone may be in crisis and not be able to get through because you’re tying it up with a non-emergency," Tubb said.
Tubb said emergency dispatchers are also getting calls from people about Gov. Greg Abbott’s travel restrictions in regards to Louisiana.
Last week, Abbott restricted travel to Texas from some COVID-19 “hot spots," including Louisiana. Under Abbott’s order, travel to and from Louisiana is restricted to those handling essential services. It applies to travel by road from any location in Louisiana. The order is being enforced by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The City of Longview is also reminding people not to call 911 to report businesses or individuals they suspect are not being compliant with state and local stay-at-home orders.
“We don’t want people calling into our emergency lines and clogging up those with these kinds of questions,” said City of Longview spokesperson Shawn Hara.
The City of Longview has added a “Coronavirus Updates” banner to its website. Information ont he site includes more about the city’s shelter-in-place order and the phone number and email address to the Coronavirus Hotline.
Tubb reiterated the importance of keeping the 911 lines open for emergencies and that the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office wants people people to call 911 if there is a true emergency.
“An emergency is if somebody’s life or property is in imminent danger. So, just a simple question is not an emergency. Take the time, look up the non-emergency number and please call it first. That way, everyone who has an actual emergency can get through and get the help that they need," Tubb said.
The number to the Longview COVID-19 Hotline is (903) 237-1215, and the Gregg County Courthouse main line is (903) 758-6181.
He also thanks the community for its support during this time.
“I want to let them know that the Gregg County Sheriff’s Office, we’re here for them if they have an issue. We’re doing business as normal. They call, we’re going to answer that call for service,” he said.
Again authorities ask only call 911 if it is an emergency.