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Woman upset about cable rate just one of thousands who make bogus 911 calls, say Peel police

Everyone knows 911 is only for emergencies, but after a Mississauga teen used the number to complain her parents forced her to go to a cottage over the weekend, it seems the word “emergency” means different things to different people.

30% of calls received so far this year have not been emergencies, Peel police say

Police in Peel Region say of the 180,000 calls they’ve gotten in 2016, many come from pocket dials or kids playing with cell phones. (Getty Images)

Everyone knows 911 is only for emergencies, but after a Mississauga teen used the number when her parents forced her to go to a cottage over the weekend, it's become clear the word "emergency" means different things to different people.

Police in Peel Region say 30 per cent of the 911 calls they've received so far this year haven't been real emergencies. Of the 180,000 calls they've gotten in 2016, many come from pocket dials or kids playing with cell phones, they say.

"You wouldn't believe the types of calls that come through to 911," Peel Regional Police quality assurance analyst Sandy Hayer told CBC News. "[It's] children laughing or giggling on the phone. Or sometimes when it's in your pocket, we can hear your pant legs moving."

One of those bogus calls was a woman calling to offer up her German Shepherd as a prospective new recruit to the force's K-9 unit. Another was a man calling to complain that he had to wait too long for the bus to arrive. Still another call was from a woman upset that she wasn't getting the best rate for her cable, Hayer said.

If you do call by accident, don't hang up

Apart from non-emergency calls, Hayer says wrong number cases are also an issue. One the biggest culprits: the fact that the country code for India is 91.

"Unfortunately when people are trying to dial out to India, they will [sometimes] accidentally dial 911."

Sandy Hayer, a quality assurance analyst with Peel Regional Police, has taken 911 calls for 10 years. (CBC)

It's a problem made worse by the fact that cell phones are often thrown into pockets and purses, and with lock-screens usually containing emergency call buttons that don't need pass codes.

The calls might sometimes seem humorous, Hayer says, but call-takers end up getting bogged down with non-emergency calls.

"Our frontline officers are getting tied up as well to tend the scene when they could be at a real emergency."

Police say if you dial them by accident, hanging up only makes it worse. That's because if a call comes in from a landline that hangs up, they dispatch emergency personnel right away.

If a call comes in from a cell phone that hangs up, they keep calling back to find out if there's an actual emergency.

"If we can't then we dispatch officers to the scene," Hayer says. "You're likely to get a stern warning."

Their main tip to the public: 911 isn't a helpline.

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