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If you've been following the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, you've probably heard about George Zimmerman's 911 calls. Between January 2011 and February 26 of this year, the neighborhood watch captain called local police forty-six times.
Nine of those times he reported someone suspicious. The others, he reported small disturbances, break-ins and windows left open. The number still seems a bit outrageous. Isn't it illegal to call 911 that many times in just over a year?
It can be, but it depends on why the individual is calling 911 and whether the reports are real. A recent story out of Bullhead City, Ariz., is a good example.
Larry Blonsky, 60, called 911 on Sunday night to report a break-in at his home. Police responded, investigated, and found nothing.
Just 90 minutes later, Blonsky called again, reporting another break-in at his home, the Associated Press reports. Police still found nothing. Officers then checked call records and realized that Blonsky had called 911 nineteen times in the past year. He was arrested on suspicion of harassment of 911 dispatchers and false reporting.
Blonsky was arrested because it's illegal to call 911 when there is no crime or suspicious activity. False reporting causes dispatchers to shift resources from real emergencies. It's also illegal to repeatedly call 911 without an actual, concrete reason to do so. In some states, this can constitute harassment.
As for George Zimmerman's 911 calls, it's hard to tell whether he ever made a false report or harassed dispatchers. All we know is that he was very vigilant, and that unto itself is not illegal.