Personal Tech

Cali cops' Clue caper: Apple technicans, in an iPhone repair lab, with the 1,600 silent 911 calls

Mystery solved... behind closed doors

By Shaun Nichols in San Francisco

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For more than three months now, cops in Sacramento, California, have been baffled by a rash of false-alarm 911 emergency calls.

Now the plod have manage to trace the calls back to the source – and it's one of Apple's US iPhone repair labs.

The Sacramento County Sheriff and Elk Grove police departments say they have received around 1,600 calls from the Elk Grove Apple repair center, each apparently made by mistake and lasting about 10 to 15 seconds apiece.

The calls reportedly began in October and have continued through the new year, averaging around 20 per day in Elk Grove alone.

According to CBS Sacramento, the calls are dead air and ambient conversation with no sounds of any struggle or emergency. Officers eventually worked out the calls originated from the Apple campus on Laguna Blvd, and further traced the source to its repair workshop.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the matter. CBS reports Elk Grove police are working with the iGiant to stop the mobes flooding the 911 call center.

While the exact cause of the accidental calls is not known, the Sacramento Bee notes that one of the troubleshooting tasks staff perform when looking at busted iPhones is to check the handsets' hardware buttons, suggesting staff may be inadvertently triggering the SOS or emergency call functions on the handhelds.

While annoying for police, the volume of the calls is not enough to overwhelm operators or put the public in danger from missed 911 calls, we're assured.

This is not the first time accidental calls from mobile phones have been blamed for wasting the time of first responders.

A 2015 study by Google found that accidental "butt dial" calls were making up a significant percentage of non-emergency 911 calls – and when a 911 operator would call a the butt-dialed handset, the phone's owner would likely not answer it immediately, thus stalling the operator further. ®

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