Two teenage boys were arrested early Wednesday morning after police discovered they were linked to several false 911 calls earlier the previous evening.
An officer spotted the boys, ages 16 and 17, at about 3 a.m. Wednesday near Douglas and Sycamore, Lt. James Espinoza said. That is in violation of the city’s curfew.
The officer found a cellphone whose number was linked to several false 911 calls made hours earlier, Espinoza said. Those calls were responsible for “tying up dozens of police and fire personnel over five hours of service,” he said.
The false calls began shortly after 11 p.m., Espinoza said. Someone reported an accident near First and Mosley, but officers and EMS responding to the location found no evidence of a crash.
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About 17 minutes later, a house fire was reported in the 300 block of North Cleveland. The caller said it was a kitchen fire, Espinoza said.
About 20 firefighters, a rescue crew and two battalion chiefs responded to the scene but found no evidence of a fire.
At around 12:48 a.m., someone called 911 to report that a man was threatening harm himself over a relationship. Four officers and a supervisor responded to the 800 block of West Second and learned it was a false call.
An hour later, a house fire was reported in the 300 block of South Exposition, Espinoza said. An emergency response similar to the Cleveland call was mobilized, he said.
Someone called about 15 minutes later and reported hearing gunfire in the 200 block of South Oak, Espinoza said. Officers responded to that location and found nothing.
Shortly before 3 a.m., he said, someone reported a suspicious character in the 100 block of South Martinson who was hiding and smoking cigarettes.
It took authorities a while to recognize the false calls were all coming from the same number, Espinoza said, because different dispatchers were handling the calls and officers in different bureaus were being sent to the locations.
“After several calls it was recognized, ‘Hey, we have a prankster,’ ” Espinoza said.
Upon further questioning, the teens admitted to setting three fires in March: two in the front lawns of residences and another grass fire at Delano Park, Espinoza said.
The teens were booked into jail on suspicion of arson, making false calls and violating curfew.