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The Lights Are On, No One’s Home, And It’s Not Our Problem

, , , | Right | February 25, 2022

I work for a city police dispatch department. It’s around 8:00 pm and I have just started my night shift when I receive the following call.

Caller: “I live right next to the town hall, and I’ve noticed that for the past two weeks, a couple of lights in their offices were constantly turned on. I think it’s both environmentally unfriendly and a waste of tax money to keep the lights on when nobody’s there.”

Me: “I understand, but unfortunately, unless you’ve observed anything out of the ordinary besides lights being turned on in an office building, we’re not really the right department for these types of complaints, even if it’s a public building.”

Caller: “Well, who should I call otherwise?”

Me: “You could try calling the town hall front desk during office hours.”

Caller: *Sarcastically, under his breath* “The police, your friend in need.”

This is a rough translation; a literal translation of the German phrase would be, “The police, your friend and helper,” so he’s implying that I’m not really helping him here by pointing that out.

Caller: *To me* “Well, could you give me their number?”

Me: “Sure, I’ll look it up for you.”

Caller: *Again under his breath* “You guys sure are something.”

At this point, I get fed up with his attitude. Apparently, he had two weeks to observe the lights being on, but he only got around to call some completely unrelated department about it in the evening, instead of calling the people who actually work in the building he’s complaining about during their office hours, or, you know, walking across the street from where he lives. And then he thinks he can be snarky with the police trying to help with his complaint?

Me: “Sir, I’m trying to help you, but to be frank, we’re not an information desk, and we certainly won’t dispatch police officers just because some office workers forgot to turn off the lights when they went home.”

Caller: “Those offices aren’t occupied; they’ve just left the lights turned on the entire time.”

Me: “How would you know that nobody’s in those offices during their office hours?”

Caller: “I’ve been observing them for two weeks now.”

Me: “So, you mean to tell me you’ve had two weeks to constantly observe those offices during their office hours, and yet, you decided to wait until it’s 8:00 pm to then call the police about this non-emergency issue?”

After a few seconds of silence:

Caller: “You know what? I don’t need that front desk number anymore.”

I get where he’s coming from in principle, that the lights shouldn’t be turned on the entire night when nobody’s there, but I simply can’t follow the thought process that would lead him to call the police about it and then choose to have an attitude when we tell him that his issue lies outside of our responsibility.

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