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Ask a Trooper: Can we text law enforcement for help?

State Trooper Jesse Grabow answers your road safety questions.

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Question: Is there a way to report a traffic violation from within the same vehicle without calling and without the driver knowing you made the report? For example, if you are a passenger in a vehicle where the driver is texting and driving and you feel unsafe, but don’t want to confront them, is there a number you could text?

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Sgt. Jesse Grabow

Answer: Yes you can. Texting 911 has been an option in Minnesota since December 2017. Text-to-911 is an alternative lifeline for people who would put themselves in harm’s way if they called 911.

Text-to-911 is a valuable alternative for hearing individuals who must remain quiet to stay safe or who can’t speak in an emergency. People have also utilized the service when signal strength was lacking or when their microphones/speakers were inoperable.

The following are examples of how Text-to-911 was used to seek help:

  • A suicidal individual did not feel comfortable talking to someone, so they texted for help instead.
  • An abducted woman texted 911, leading to her captor’s arrest.
  • Children who were fearful of being overhead when calling 911 have texted when their parents were in a verbal or physical conflict.
  • A hunter became lost in the woods on a cold night and didn’t have enough signal strength to call 911, but did have enough to text 911.
  • A person had difficulty breathing from a panic attack and could not speak, so they texted 911.

Text-to-911 should only be used in emergencies and when speaking is not an option. Dispatchers have reported receiving texts for non-emergencies or in situations where it would be preferable to speak to 911. Text-to-911 users should be ready to answer follow-up questions promptly as delayed replies will also delay response times.
Remember: Call if you can, text if you can’t.

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Provide an accurate location, cross street or well-known landmark in your initial text. Dispatchers cannot send help if they don’t know where you are.

Texting 911 with a false report is a crime.

If you accidentally send a text to 911, send another text, or call 911 to let the dispatcher know that there is no emergency.

If there is an emergency and you cannot call 911, take these steps:

  1. Enter the numbers 911 in the “To” field.
  2. Text your exact address and type of emergency.
  3. Send the message.
  4. Use simple words, but do not include abbreviations, emojis, pictures or slang.
  5. Promptly answer questions and follow instructions.
More Jesse Grabow columns
State Trooper Jesse Grabow answers your road safety questions.

Send questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota to: Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol , 1000 Highway 10 W., Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. Follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at jesse.grabow@state.mn.us.

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