The Dallas Police Department is apologizing for flyers sent to a number of residents mistakenly threatening arrest.
In preparation for the holiday weekend, DPD sent out hundreds of notices to people who have reportedly violated city ordinances related to setting fireworks in the recent past, firing guns in the air and having loud music.
Problem is, the police gave some notices to the wrong people, according to DPD.
DPD is blaming a technical glitch for a mix-up that led officers to hand-deliver notices to unsuspecting residents.
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At least two Oak Cliff residents who got the notice say the only connection they have to these violations is that they’ve called 911 to report them.
Both women say they were told they received the notice, not because they were violators, but because they were calling 911 about the violators, something DPD says is not the case.
The women say they’ve been made to feel like they’re a nuisance or are being watched by police and are now fearful to call 911.
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“I think I’ll think twice about calling 911 again,” Pat Ketchum said. “I always thought you could. I don’t think I’ve abused it at all. It was for a reason.”
That is how Ketchum feels after receiving a warning from DPD. “I didn’t know what to say. I was shocked,” she said.
The flier that appeared on her door this week accuses the 75-year-old of being a ‘NUISANCE NOISE PROPERTY.’
“She just started almost crying. She said, 'I didn’t do that,'” said her son Tim Hill. “I said, 'I know you didn’t, mom. I just need to figure out what’s going on.'”
Ketchum is among nearly 700 people across the city who received the flier from DPD in English and Spanish.
The flier claims their home has been "identified by police" as a nuisance property based on numerous 911 complaints and in the past six months for violations related to noise "requiring multiple responses by a member of the Dallas Police Department."
Christina Bristow shared doorbell camera video with NBC 5 showing a cruiser arriving at her home with its lights flashing and an officer walking up her driveway with the same notice.
The warning threatens a $500 fine or an arrest for "Future violations...without prior warning, if observed by a member of the Dallas Police Department."
“I was like, 'What’s this about?' He said, 'It’s about the 911 calls,'” said Bristow about her conversation with the officer.
Bristow is the "neighborhood lead" and says she often calls 911 on behalf of other neighbors reporting activity like gunshots or fireworks.
She is standing her ground and says she will continue to call 911 as often as is needed.
“The reason our neighborhood has gotten better is because we call 911,” said Bristow. “I am so horrified that people are going to start being hesitant to call because they’re afraid of retaliation.”
Hill and his partner called police demanding an explanation for the notice and says he spoke with a sergeant in the southwest precinct.
“[I told him], 'you’re saying we’re a nuisance noise property and we’re threatened with a $500 fine and threat of arrest if you catch us doing something? Are you like watching us,'” Hill asked the officer. “He’s like, ‘No, no, no, no.’ He said, ‘You may have just gotten that notice because you called 911 too much.’ And I said, 'What?!'”
Hill said police told him they had been receiving similar calls from other angry residents.
He demands to know where the directive for the letters came from. DPD says this is the second year they’ve sent letters out.
“I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you telling people this? Are you trying to scare people not to call 911?’ This is intimidation to me.”
NBC 5 asked the Dallas Police Department about the fliers, who they were sent to, why, and whether people like Ketchum were sent the fliers because they call 911 a lot.
DPD spokeswoman Kristin Lowman says, "Absolutely not, the department is not intending to threaten or intimidate anyone who calls 911."
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As for Ketchum’s case, which DPD specifically looked into following NBC 5’s request, Lowman said, “That one was given in error. I know that community engagement is going to be reaching out to that family and apologize.”
The notices Lowman says were supposed to go to violators, not people who called 911 on the violators.
After reviewing more incidents at NBC 5’s request, Lowman said both women and a number of others in the city received the fliers by mistake. The department found that their calls to 911 were somehow mistakenly categorized to show them as the violators instead of the callers.
The department is asking anyone who received the notice and believes it is by mistake to call their local substation to have their name and address cleared and receive an apology for the mix-up.
Lowman says Chief Eddie Garcia has and will continue to urge all residents in Dallas to call 911 to report crimes and nuisance activities.
“If you see something criminal going on in your neighborhood, we want you to call 911,” said Lowman.
The two families in Oak Cliff simply aren’t buying it.
“I think they’re trying to cover their butt because they messed up,” said Hill.
He owns several homes in the area and agrees with Bristow that the neighborhood has improved because more neighbors have been willing to speak up.
“We pay a lot of taxes to live here and then you get something like this on my poor mother who all she does is water her flowers and exist and enjoy the neighborhood and now she’s fearful to call 911,” he said shaking his head.
The group is especially worried about others who are confused about the notice, those who will believe it is a warning about their frequent calls to 911, and especially for minorities who are already often wary of calling police and reporting crimes.
NBC 5 asked the city to respond to questions about the fliers, who sent them and why.
A city spokesperson told NBC 5 that the request for answers would be considered ‘closed’ since we spoke with the police department.
Lowman says the fliers were meant to educate actual violators about the trouble they could face over the holiday weekend and beyond.
Bristow wants to know how many people erroneously received the letters and demands answers and accountability from police and the city.
“They need to repair this damage that they’ve done to the community,” said Bristow.
“Someone needs to take accountability for this letter and accountability for what it’s done to us as a community and fix it. Not just say 'mistake.' Not this many 'mistakes.'"