'We're not an animal removal service': Norfolk OPP
The police service said it has been inundated with 911 calls about raccoons.
Norfolk OPP are struggling to get a message out to the public to only call 911 when there's an emergency. Instead, the service has received numerous calls about raccoons and other non-urgent matters.
"I can tell you, in one shift, I was speaking to officers and they received over 15 calls for raccoon complaints," said Const. Ed Sanchuk. "It's a common myth that a raccoon walking around during the day is sick or has rabies."
Raccoons can be active during the day for many reasons, according to Sanchuk. They might be looking for a source of food, they might have been frightened out of their daytime sleeping spot, or if there is high competition in the area at night from other nocturnal animals.
But, they don't represent an emergency worthy of calling 911.
"We're not an animal removal service. We're the police," said Sanchuk. "We will do the best we can to help the general public because that's what we're here to do. But we don't have any special equipment to trap or house live animals."
Raccoons aren't the only problem
Sanchuk said the problem goes beyond raccoons in that people are calling 911 for a host of other non-emergency reasons.
Here are just a few:
- A 21 year old male called because he didn't remember where his parents lived.
- A female called after locking her cell phone and keys in an office.
- A mother called to talk to officers about her daughter hanging out with people she disliked.
- People regularly call for road and weather information.
"These are not 911 emergencies!" said an exasperated Sanchuk. "If you have a vehicle collision, an impaired driver, someone who needs medical attention, you've got a fire, 911 is there to save lives."
Tying up resources
What really troubles Sanchuk is it takes two officers about 30 minutes each to respond, investigate and clear the call.
"Calling 911 for raccoons or any other non-emergency ties up the phone lines at the communications centre, wastes taxpayers' money and threatens lives."
The OPP has a toll-free number for non-urgent matters. If people call 1-888-310-2222 they will be put in touch with the appropriate person to help.
"We're just asking people to please use common sense. 911 is for emergencies. If you don't have an emergency please contact the non-emergency line."