Greenville Sheriff Arrests Man; Says He Made 38 Fake 911 Calls -

Greenville Sheriff Arrests Man; Says He Made 38 Fake 911 Calls

By Emily Pace

Greenville County Sheriff's deputies arrested a man who they say made too many 911 calls for emergencies that didn’t exist.

According to investigators, Ralph Roan Lawson, 43, made 38 false emergency calls to dispatchers in less than two-and-a-half years.

Lawson is accused of calling 911 shortly before midnight Tuesday to report his wife was unconscious at a home on Sandra Avenue.

While deputies were investigating the call, a second call was made to 911 claiming people were trapped in a burning church in Anderson County.

Investigator says both calls were false.

Fake reports to dispatchers are a problem across the Upstate.

“Some of our dispatch staff has recognized voices and they will immediately know there is something to it, but we can't not respond,” said Michael Flynn with Spartanburg County Emergency Services.

Flynn says false 911 calls don’t happen every day, but throughout the years Spartanburg County dispatchers have dealt with numerous “serial dialers.”

“The one that stands out in my mind was a juvenile that called in 45 false calls.”

Flynn says the teen reported accidents, fires and all kinds of crimes.

“That puts a lot of stress on our staff,” says Flynn, “and when you get into those types of emergencies, you are not just tying up one person, we may have five to seven people dealing with it.”

Flynn says it also ties up emergency personnel which could delay response times for real problems.

Officials can't estimate how much it costs to answer a false 911 call, but says it can add up quickly, if EMS, fire and law enforcement are dispatched to a scene.    

“If someone calls in and makes claims, we are going to respond,” said Dep. Jonathan Smith with the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.

An investigation by the sheriff's office concludes Lawson made false 911 calls since July 2010.  A total of 21 of the fake reports have been received by dispatchers from Lawson since November 2012.

Lawson is charged with unlawful use of 911.  He is currently out on bond.   If convicted, Lawson faces up to six months in prison and a $200 fine.

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