St. Petersburg -- Police spend thousands of dollars a year on a mass call system the department rarely uses.

10 News found some neighbors who were supposed to be notified via a nonemergency robocall never received the call last Tuesday, which was only the third time in four years the system had been used.

St. Petersburg police spend thousands of dollars a year on a mass call system it rarely uses.

The department said it continues to spend $17,000 of taxpayers' money a year on a system that's rarely used because it is an investment in the safety of its residents.

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Police got the FirstCall mass communications system in 2010. That means police have spent $68,000 on a system it has used only three times. Two of them were for emergencies and the one used on Tuesday was for a safety alert.

The alert Tuesday said: "This is a public safety alert from the St. Petersburg police. We have seen an increase in car burglaries in your neighborhood. Almost all involve cars left unlocked…"

That call went out to the Old Northeast two days ago.

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"For the St. Petersburg Police Department this FirstCall is like an insurance policy that you pay into because, you know, you have to have it in case of an emergency," said Yolanda Fernandez, one of the department's public information officers. "But, you kind of hope you never have to use it."

From 2010 to 2013, the $17,000 spent bought the city only 100,000 minutes. In an emergency, police would have to notify 250,000 residents so the department must make those calls short and use its minutes wisely.

"Last year it changed we were able to use the nonemergency database of calls in order to put our safety alerts. So that is why this past week we were able to out a safety alert," said Fernandez.

Also, as of last year's contract change with First Call, the department has unlimited minutes. Now neighbors could be hearing more updates; but only if their numbers are registered.

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