Natatia Bledsoe is the public information officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department.
Important Lesson of the Week: Do you know where you live?
(You might be surprised!)
The Police Department is open 24 hours/day, every day of the week and perhaps because of this, the people who staff the 911 Center frequently get calls and questions that aren’t necessarily related to police work. That’s OK, because 911 dispatchers as a whole are truly some of the most helpful and also the most resourceful human beings on the planet. The 911 Center is stocked with massive amounts of reference materials that make it possible to find the answer to all manner of questions and the solution to a vast array of problems.
There’s no great mystery to their power; it all relies on knowing who to call or where to look for the information that is required.
(The above is a rather obvious way to segue into my Important Lesson of the Week.)
If you need the police, do you know who to call?
I know this seems like a completely elementary question, but you may be surprised to learn that a lot of people don’t know where they live. Oh, they know their mailing address, and they know where they lay their heads at night, but they don’t know that they don’t live in the City of Fredericksburg.
The Fredericksburg Police Department is responsible for investigating all criminal incidents and complaints within the eleven square miles of our jurisdiction. The Fredericksburg Sheriff’s Office is responsible for all court security and civil paperwork processing within the same city boundaries.
The Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office is responsible for all criminal cases, civil paperwork, and court security in Spotsylvania County, and the same holds true for all of the Sheriff’s departments in our area within their own respective counties.
It sounds simple, but the single most repeated mistake made by callers to the Fredericksburg 911 Center stems from the citizen’s misguided belief that they live within the city limits, when they do not. This can be very frustrating for both parties involved in that phone conversation, especially when the dispatcher has to convince the caller that he or she is, in fact, a county resident.
Caller: “I’d like to report that my car was broken into.”
Dispatcher: “Of course, sir, and what is your address?”
Caller: “I live at 12345 Anywhere Avenue.”
Dispatcher: “I’m sorry sir. That is not a city address.”
Caller: “Yes it is! My mailing address is Fredericksburg, Virginia.”
Dispatcher: “Yes sir, but the postal address can be different from your actual location. I know it’s confusing. What is your zip code?”
Dispatcher: “Sir, you are in Spotsylvania County, would you like the phone number for the Sheriff’s Office?”
Caller: “That’s ridiculous! I’ve lived here for five years and I know I live in Fredericksburg!”
Dispatcher: “Sir, where do your children go to school? Where do you pay your personal property taxes?” (Did I mention that 911 dispatchers are some of the most resourceful human beings on the planet? Also the most patient.)
Caller: “Well, my house is technically in the county, but I live in Fredericksburg.”
The tenacious dispatcher at this point will usually offer to call the appropriate Sheriff’s department and connect the caller directly to the people who can actually send help, rather than continuing this fruitless exercise.
Fortunately, this sort of exchange does not happen too often on emergency phone lines, since those are usually automatically routed by the phone system to the proper dispatch center, depending on the caller’s location. If it does happen, the dispatcher can use a single-button transfer to immediately connect the caller with the right 911 Center.
So in order to streamline the important process of getting the assistance you need, and to support the continued good humor and longevity of our vital staff members, please do learn from whence you hail.
If you live in Chancellor, River Bluffs, or near 4- or 5-Mile Fork, you are a Spotsylvanian.
If you make your home in Falmouth, Ferry Farms, or Chatham Heights, you are a resident of Stafford.
If your zip code is 22401, you live in the ‘Burg. And we’d be delighted to help you.