What was the NYPD phone number before 911?

Before July 1968, if you had an urgent situation to report, you actually had to dial the NYPD’s seven-digit main number: 440-1234.

That all changed when the police department adopted the 911 system. Developed by the FCC and AT&T in the mid-1960s, New York was the first city to implement it, for police calls only.


It was a big success, increasing daily calls to central command from 12,000 to 17,000, cutting down on street crime, and leading to more police cars being dispatched, according to a March 1970 New York Times piece.

As this New York Post ad from December 2, 1970 shows, two years after the police began using 911, the fire department and EMTs adopted it too.

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12 Responses to “What was the NYPD phone number before 911?”

  1. Frank Says:

    At some point, perhaps prior to 440-1234, the number to reach the PD was SPring-7-3100. Do you have any information on that number (when it was instituted, for how long etc)?


  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I didn’t know about that number; the number I have comes from a NYT article announcing the switch to 911. I’ll look into it though.

  3. Frank Says:


  4. r185 Says:

    Yes. My father was a cop up to ’71 and even the police magazine was called “Spring 3100”

    • October East Says:

      And still is! I work for the graphic arts company that does layout on Spring 3100 today, in 2016. And until now I had no idea what the title signified. Thank you!

  5. velvethead Says:

    This link is for a 1932 movie called Manhattan Tower. It uses the brand new ESB as a back drop to a rather entertaining movie. Not to give the ending away, but when the police need to be called, the character actor says, “Operator, give me Spring 3100”

    • Thom Says:

      Spring 3100 was the old phone number for NYPD’s Old Police Headquarters, at 240 Centre Street, New York, NY, in the era when that movie was made. There was only four digit dialing then. You need to call the operator at your telephone exchange to route the call to another telephone exchange.

      “Spring” was name of the telephone exchange where NYPD’s Old Police Headquarters is. Later when seven digit dial was enabled the phone number was listed as Sp7-3100. However that was not the “Emergency Number” for NYPD. Sp7-3100 was the number for the main switch board for NYPD’s Old Police Headquarters intended for regular business calls. Its Communications Section handled the “Emergency Number” at Hq and in Boros dispatching request for assistance has needed. The number mentioned in the first post may been the “Emergency Number”.

      After the very first American 9-1-1 call was placed on February 16, 1968, in Haleyville, Alabama [ http://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-911-emergency-calls-4075420 ], New York City became the first major city in July of 1968 to implement 9-1-1. [ https://www.6sqft.com/new-york-was-the-first-city-to-dial-9-1-1-for-emergencies/ ] Eventually the 9-1-1 call centers in the boros where consolidated in 1973 when all headquarters and Communications Section operations was moved to NYPD’s New Police Headquarters, at One Police Plaza (often abbreviated as 1PP). In late 1974 I started working at NYPD’s Communications Section/9-1-1 as a Police Administrative Aide. I believe due technical reasons then, Sp7-3100 remained the phone number for the Old Police Headquarters until it was deactivate and converted to a condo/

      To answer the question about Kitty Genovese, she was attacked March 13, 1964, see the article at this link http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/history-of-911-americas-emergency-service-before-and-after-kitty-genovese/

  6. velvethead Says:

    Oh, look! the whole movie comes up!

  7. Jim Geiser Says:

    My Dad, Grandfather, 2 Great-Uncles, a Great-Aunt were all NYPD and though only Dad was in the NYPD when the change to 911 was made, I used it on one very scary day. I called the Police on my Dad. I was home sick, and Dad had left. I heard him depart. But I never heard him come back in the house. Scariest 15-20 minutes of my life.

  8. Bernie defazio Says:

    Did the murder of kitty Genoese help in pronto 911 being installed

  9. S3 E2: Winston Moseley – Fruitloops Says:

    […] https://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2014/08/25/what-was-the-nypd-phone-number-before-911/ […]

  10. Doug Douglass Says:

    440-1234. So many people dialed the letter “O’, the business at HIckory 6-1234 changed their number.

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