Bud Kennedy

Calling Fort Worth police? After 50 years, learn a new number

Fort Worth police may now be reached at 817-392-4222. Yes, that’s new.
Fort Worth police may now be reached at 817-392-4222. Yes, that’s new. rmallison@star-telegram.com

For 50 years, if you needed Fort Worth police for any reason other than a life-or-death emergency, the number to dial was 817-335-4222.

Not anymore.

Our city police — of all people — have quietly changed their phone number.

Don’t dial that number you’ve kept programmed into memory since 1967.

It’s only a recording: “We’re sorry.”

It takes nearly 20 more seconds to hear the new number — 817-392-4222 — and only if you catch it the first time.

Sure, if you couldn’t spare 20 seconds, you probably should have dialed 911 instead.

But that’s only for life-or-death emergencies when you need an officer right then. Most calls to Fort Worth police are not a matter of life of death.

It is not even clear who at City Hall decided to up and switch a 50-year-old number. Or why.

Police spokeswoman Tamara Valle emailed Tuesday that the change was intended to avoid “additional cost and confusion” because other City Hall numbers start with a 392 prefix.

I’d argue that needlessly changing a 50-year-old phone number causes cost and confusion.

Tarrant County 911 Director Greg Petrey said call takers were notified of the change by an assistant in the city police communications department.

“Anytime you change something that’s been in place that long, it’s going to cause some confusion,” he said.

“To have a phone number that you’ve kept for 50 years — that’s amazing to me.” (The 911 number is only 30 years old.)

The job of promoting the new number has mostly been left to neighborhood police officers using Facebook and NextDoor social media groups.

But here’s the problem with that: People who have to call police to make a theft report, or to give a crime tip, aren’t online or on social media. If they were, they wouldn’t have to call.

Some of the oldest or youngest and most vulnerable among us rely on written numbers and voice phone calls, even when it’s not an emergency. This only makes it tougher on them.

Police neighborhood officers began promoting the new number in December, but City Hall did not bother to announce it until Jan. 31.

On Facebook, one officer tried to explain the change by saying all other City Hall numbers were changed “about a year ago.”

To be exact, in 2003.

But the old number — launched in 1967 as “EDison 5-4222” — was working fine.

Look, it’s OK if Fort Worth police changed the number to save their confusion.

I just wish they’d worry more about our confusion.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.