Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) say, between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31 of 2019, they have responded to 750 “non-emergency” calls in the county, compared to 641 during the same period in 2018.
OPP say it’s a 17 per cent increase from the year before and puts them on a pace toward about 1,100 non-emergency calls by the end of 2019. Last year, the service reported 938 ‘non-emergency’ calls in all of 2018.
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Const. Rod LeClair told Global News that misuse and abuse of 9-1-1 could result in slower OPP responses to real emergencies, “risking the safety of people who may need urgent help.”
LeClair says crimes reported after the fact, like thefts or mischief, and unintentional dial-ups are the calls of issue.
Non-emergency incidents, like stolen or missing property, mischief or driving complaints, are supposed to be directed to the OPP’s 24-hour toll-free number (1-888-310-1122), and not 911.
“Part of it could be some people don’t realize there is a 1-800 number to call and that 911 isn’t the only number.
“Some may have the mindset that they will only get an immediate response if they 9-1-1,” said LeClair.
In the fall of 2017, OPP launched the #KnowWhenToCall campaign to educate the public on ‘non-emergency’ calls to 911 with a specific emphasis on unintentional calls, such as pocket dials and calls made by children playing with mobile phones.
The campaign advises those who have placed an unintentional 911 call to stay on the line to let the emergency operator know it was an unintentional call, rather than hang up.
Police also suggest using keypad lock features and turning off the 9-1-1 auto-dial features.
When asked why there had been a sudden spike in “non-emergency’ 911 calls for 2019, LeClair said the agency did not know.
“Calls to 911, whether intentional or not, are trending to be approximately 17 per cent higher than last year. I’m not sure of the reason,” said LeClair.
“We just have to keep sending out reminders to the public.”
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