You should not call 911 because there’s a duck on your roof and you’re not sure how to get it down. Nor should you call if you can’t get a cab, or if you want to ask about road conditions, or because your pizza was delivered late and the driver is refusing to give it to you for free.
'We get calls in our call centre like, 'My bike got stolen four or five days ago.'' - Insp. Brian Smithson
But residents of Peel region have called 911 for those exact, and even stranger, reasons, and officials want them to stop.
"We get calls in our call centre like, 'My bike got stolen four or five days ago,'" Insp. Brian Smithson of Peel Regional Police told CBC News.
The call centre gets calls from Brampton, Mississauga and other nearby communities. It fields about 600,000 calls a year, said Smithson, about 340,000 of which are to 911.
But roughly half of the 911 calls aren’t actual emergencies, he said.
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More than one Brampton resident called during last winter’s ice storm, for instance, to ask if the other city streets were as icy as theirs.
During the flooding that hit the area last summer, one person wanted a police officer to come look at their basement so that the insurance company would have proof the flooding was due to the storm.
"Those aren’t emergencies for the police department," Smithson said. "Calling 911 when it's not an emergency only ties up lines that are dedicated to real emergencies."
The line is meant only for life-threatening situations or to report crimes that are in progress.
The 911 line is also sometimes called by accident, he said, often because a cellphone has been "butt dialled" or played with by a child.
Smithson said people should not program 911 into their phones or let children play with any phone that has power. An old cellphone with a battery in it can still connect to 911, he said.
It is a better idea, Smithson said, to program the non-emergency numbers for your local police. In Peel Region, the number is (905) 453-3311. In Toronto, it's (416) 808-2222.