I have my house wired up with security cameras. When traveling others countries, I still can get phone alerts that there is movement in the house, and can access the security feeds on-line to see if there are burglars. But if I want to ring the police to go to my house, how can I call them? I can use a long distance phone card, but I think 9-1-1 won't work as usual in this situation.

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    Does your police has a local number that is really local? So not a national number where you will be directed to your nearest police station but one for the actual office covering your village/area?
    – Willeke
    Jun 20, 2018 at 19:37
  • @Willeke all local police forces in the US have phone numbers; using 911 for a non-emergency call is generally against the law.
    – phoog
    Jun 20, 2018 at 21:01
  • Would calling to report a burglary be a non-emergency and against the law?
    – Village
    Jun 20, 2018 at 21:02
  • @Village of course not, but if you're outside the jurisdiction where the crime is taking place, 911 will connect you to the wrong service. If you call 911 in Paris, for example, you'll get the Paris police, be it France or Texas. (Cell phones generally treat all calls placed to any emergency number as a local emergency call.) I doubt French police will be readily able to help you stimulate a police response to a burglary in the US; Texas police might be a better bet, but if you live in another state, it's still a long shot.
    – phoog
    Jun 20, 2018 at 21:06
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    @Rg7xgW6acQ3g Incorrect. It is a crime in progress and reporting it to 911 is appropriate.
    – user71659
    Jun 21, 2018 at 7:22

3 Answers 3


Google will certainly get you the regular, non-emergency number for your police department. You might as well call that, because unless you live in a small, crime-free area, burglary of an empty house won't be a high-priority call.

Certain alarm companies will call police for you, but it sounds as if your system is home brew.

  • That only works if the police in the area still uses individual local numbers. Where I live there is a national non-emergency number for all police and like the emergency number you will be diverted to the nearest office.
    – Willeke
    Jun 20, 2018 at 19:52
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    @Willeke In the US police departments can be extremely local, and the local ones are almost entirely independent of state and national police. Jun 20, 2018 at 20:24
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    @DJClayworth that's true, but in many cities, this advice could be next to useless. I live in New York City. The local precinct takes quite a long time to answer the phone, in my experience, and I can imagine that if I called them to report a burglary, they'd tell me to hang up and call 911.
    – phoog
    Jun 20, 2018 at 20:54
  • The USA is rolling out 311 as a non-emergency number for government services, but few people know about it. In any case, it will connect you to the service where you physically are, not the one in your hometown. (The OP being overseas, 311/911 probably won't work at all.) Jun 20, 2018 at 20:57
  • @AndrewLazarus 911 will most likely connect OP to the local emergency services. I suppose you're right that 311 won't work at all. The NYPD lists 311 as its non-emergency number, so I suppose in such a case I'd have to call my precinct. From experience, I can say that this is not a speedy way to get the attention of the NYPD.
    – phoog
    Jun 20, 2018 at 21:11

Sign up with a VoIP provider that offers 911 service.

As part of the signup process, you provide a "service address" which is used to route emergency calls. This address is used to route calls regardless of where you are actually located when placing the call. (And, if E911 is supported, the address is automatically supplied to the operator.)

Depending on the provider, you may need to purchase a DID (phone number) in your home area. (~$1/mo). Usage is usually billed by the minute (~1¢/min) with optional monthly plans including minutes available.

You can access your VoIP account over a data connection (cell or wifi) using a SIP app on your phone, or many VoIP providers provide local "access numbers" that work more or less like a calling card -- you use traditional PSTN service to dial the number, then dial an account number/PIN, then dial a destination number.

As an added bonus, this means you no longer need a separate phone card -- just use your VoIP service for regular calls too.

Note that the kind of VoIP service that provides this level of flexibility is typically oriented to business customers. While very inexpensive, it can also be very difficult to configure. You may be able to find consumer-oriented VoIP plans that are easier to use, but will be far more expensive.


Calling the non-emeregency number will usually be answered with " police / emergency / sherrif / whatever call center, do you have an emergency?". Even my community college campus police department answers internal local calls this way to the non-emergency line.

Before you travel while you are local you should get in touch with your local LE agency (police if in city limits, sheriffs in county) and find out

  1. which agency would be responding (highway patrol does traffic at my house - I have issues with drunks and my fence - but sheriffs dept for criminal reporting, and sheriffs plus local PD from 2 closest small towns when you report holding someone at gunpoint)
  2. how they want to be contacted if you get an alert in general (you are out to dinner, but in town, or in-state, etc)
  3. how they want to be contacted if you get an alert while traveling out of state or internationally

When you do this, find out not just what number to call, but if a specific key phrases should be used or if specific information should be given.

If you have remote video monitoring, figure out how you can easily and quickly send an link to a 3rd party (ie "My alarm system is going off but I am away from home, my remote live video shows two people moving in my house, I can email a link to the feed")

Or since you've cobbled together your own monitoring system (I'm considering one as well for my mother's house) figure out a way you can make the land line dial and then leave the line open. Maybe set up a Pi with an USB modem, etc. 911 will roll everything if they get a call and no response or a hang up (as any parent with kids under the age of 10 will eventually learn) and they cannot get back in touch with you. Even if you answer when they call back, an officer will be on his or her way to visually check...

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    The local police may well frown on a homebrew system that automatically dials 911 and doesn't say anything if it detects motion (they have no earthly idea it's even coming from an alarm), or at least an alarm permit may be required first. Jun 20, 2018 at 22:02
  • @ZachLipton - I agree. But for something critical - like your house catching fire - it may be worth it. Of course, the hard part is absolutely ensuring that you won't make any false calls. Probably best not to automate that part, but set it up so you can ssh in and manually trigger a "panic" call.
    – ivanivan
    Jun 21, 2018 at 16:22

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