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Prank calls

  • ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Tamaqua police and firefighters respond to another prank fire call on Center Street in Tamaqua.
    ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Tamaqua police and firefighters respond to another prank fire call on Center Street in Tamaqua.
Published March 02. 2011 05:01PM

During the past two weeks, someone has been calling 911, Schuylkill County Communications Center, numerous times reporting false fires in Tamaqua.

Tamaqua Fire Chief Tom Hartz Jr. expressed his frustration with the number of prank calls received and the danger it causes for firefighters, pointing out that dozens of volunteer firefighters stop their lives each time they respond to these calls in a timely manner.

Although the Schuylkill County Communications Center normally has special methods to trace incoming calls as well as cell phone serial numbers, it is currently unable to track this caller.

During the responses, dispatchers stated on the radio that the caller's voice appeared to be from a little girl, probably on a cell phone.

Most of the prank calls were directed to false fires on Center Street in Tamaqua.

In addition to working contract and prepaid cell phones, inactive, unlocked, locked or non-activated cell phones are usually able to call 911 no matter the status of the phone or removal of the SIM chip.

Many things add to the normally-strong ability of law enforcement to trace calls, such as constant rotation of cell phone numbers, heavy use of unregistered and cash-payable prepaid cell phones, Internet phone numbers, cheaper call-forwarding services, advanced call blocking, and the recent availability of cell phone spoofing software (cheap cell phone software used to falsify your incoming phone number on someone else's caller-ID).

A business owner on Center Street stated this prank caller is endangering the lives of every resident in Tamaqua by impeding the seriousness of each response, pointing out the story of the boy who cried wolf.

Tamaqua Crime Watch is asking parents to check their children's active and old cell phones for calls made to 911, 668-6100, or 668-5000.

If anyone has any information concerning these prank calls, call the Tamaqua Police Department at (570) 668-6100.

A volunteer firefighter stated that the prankster is endangering everyone living in Tamaqua, pointing out that most emergency responders might soon find it hard to keep accepting the seriousness of each call.

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