Columbia police are investigating multiple false 911 calls made to the department in recent months, as Lexington County authorities grapple with their own rising number of fake calls.
City officers were called last week to a burglary in progress at a home on the 1600 block of Atlantic Drive in Columbia, according to a police report. The call was determined to be a prank call.
“We have received numerous prank calls from the same 911 prefix number in the surrounding area over the past few months,” police wrote in their report.
Deputy Chief Melron Kelly of the Columbia Police Department said they have received about 30 false 911 in the last three weeks. The calls usually come during the daytime hours, and officers are given addresses in the north region of Columbia. The caller, a female, typically reports things like shootings, burglaries and assaults with weapons.
"We're using all available equipment and technology to narrow down who's doing this," Kelly said. "We don't want to take officers out of other parts of the community where they're needed for actual emergencies."
Kelly said anyone convicted of intentionally making a false 911 call faces up to six months in prison for each call.
Since last month, Columbia officers have responded to the 4500 block of Bentley Court for several “possible suicide” calls that originated from the same number, then found no problem at that address, police spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said.
Columbia police are working with the Lexington County Sheriff's Department to determine if it's the same woman behind the fake calls in Lexington County.
Lexington County authorities have taken more than 60 false 911 calls to their dispatch center since late March. The sheriff’s department tweeted Monday that it received four more calls in recent days, bringing to total number of false calls received to 65.
The sole woman believed to be behind the calls to Lexington County reports serious incidents such as shootings, robberies or burglaries when she calls, officials have said. She is using an out-of-service cellphone that still has the capability of making 911 calls, Sheriff Jay Koon has said.
It remains unclear if the calls to Columbia police are connected to the calls received in Lexington County, but Timmons said they are sharing their information with the Lexington and Richland County sheriff’s departments.
Under state law, a person convicted of making a false 911 call faces up to six months in prison.