HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – A former 911 operator who hung up the phone “thousands” of times on people attempting to report emergencies in Harris County, Texas has been sentenced to jail time.
Crenshanda Williams, 44, was found guilty by a jury of interference with emergency telephone calls Wednesday after “systematically” hanging up the phone on residents of Harris County, ABC13 reported.
As a result of her guilt, she was sentenced to 10 days in jail and 18 months probation.
Williams misdeeds were discovered while Houston Emergency Center (HEC) officials conducted monthly audits. During the internal review they discovered she had an unusual number of “short calls,” which were no longer than 20 seconds. According to the Houston Chronicle, prosecutors determined she hung up on “thousands” of calls.
In one instance, emergency caller Jim Moten told ABC13 he called 911 in 2016 after he spotted two vehicles speeding on a highway. It was the same location where people had been killed from speeding weeks earlier. However, he thought his call had dropped after a few seconds.
“Come to find out I was hung up on,” he said.
Court documents, according to the news station, stated that Williams had taken Moten’s call and, before he could finish explaining his emergency, she reportedly said: “Ain’t nobody got time for this. For real.”
Another hang-up included a person trying to report a violent robbery, reported the Chronicle.
Williams reportedly spent a year and a half at the HEC taking 911 calls. Her negligence was discovered in August 2016. Consequently, she was fired.
Documents also stated, “thousands of short calls have been attributed to the defendant from October 2015 through March 2016.”
“The citizens of Harris County rely on 911 operators to dispatch help in their time of need,” Assistant District Attorney Lauren Reeder said in a statement. “When a public servant betrays the community’s trust and breaks the law, we have a responsibility to hold them criminally accountable.”
Williams’ attorney, Franklin Bynum, argued that his client “was going through a hard time in her life” when she hung up on the emergency calls, and said “punishing her doesn’t do anything to fix the problems that still exist at the emergency center.”
It’s unclear what problems at the center Bynum was referring to.
The “state-of-the-art” center was opened in 2003 as a consolidation of Houston’s three emergency communication centers. This is how the HEC is described:
Prior to September 2003, Houston had three emergency communications centers for 9-1-1: Neutral Public Safety Answering Point, Police Department Emergency Communications Division, and Fire Department Emergency Communications Operations. Each agency had separate answering centers, computer networks, and technical support. The development of the state-of-the-art Houston Emergency Center (HEC) consolidates all of these efforts.
Along with HEC providing 24/7 round-the-clock emergency 9-1-1 services, the facility is a $50 million investment towards a secured facility equipped with state of the art emergency communications technology. These advancements are utilized by the center’s 9-1-1 call takers and emergency dispatchers from the Houston Police and Fire Departments. System upgrades include police dispatch, fire dispatch, fire records, fire alerting, and geographic information at a cost of approximately $12 million. Antiquated facilities have been replaced with an innovative and redundant complex that consolidates emergency communications.
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