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Why a police officer may not show up when you call 911

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RICHMOND, Va. --Leaders of an area church contacted WTVR CBS 6 after someone smashed windows and vandalized cars outside a Richmond church Tuesday night.

Broad Rock Baptist Church members said police took the report over the phone, but did not send an officer to investigate. That is because methods of prioritizing 911 calls vary depending on the police department or sheriff's office you contact.

When you call 911, you expect a police officer or a sheriff's deputy to show up, but that is not always the case

"When you call 911, the dispatcher takes your information and it goes into the computer, the CAD System, and CAD prioritizes your call," explained Lt. Mike Phibbs with Richmond police.

Lt. Mike Phibbs with Richmond Police

Lt. Mike Phibbs with Richmond Police

Officials said with a limited number of officers and deputies on duty during a shift, not every call warrants them being dispatched to the scene.

"If it fits certain criteria, life safety issue, we're automatically going," Phibbs said.

However, some larceny, vandalism, trespassing  and similar calls can be handled by simply taking a report over the phone.

Major Kevin Smith with Chesterfield County Police said the department's emergency communications officers screen calls and they will offer alternatives.

"We've had phone reporting for probably 35 years or more," Smith said.

Additionally, Chesterfield County Police are now offering online reporting. By using alternatives it keeps more officers of the street for life-threatening emergencies.

Henrico County Police officials said officers take phone reports for vandalisms, missing adults, breaking and entering into sheds and garages, stolen cars and larcenies. But they make an exception for those cases if a handgun was used in the crime.

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Broad Rock Baptist Church

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