Police say 'nuisance calls' a growing problem - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Police say 'nuisance calls' a growing problem

By Dan Wells - bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Tri-State 911 dispatchers certainly have a challenging job, where seconds can really mean the difference between life and death.

But imagine all of that responsibility while having to navigate what police say are a growing number of nuisance calls.

In Butler County, dispatchers get more than 36,000 calls per year. Mixed in between the real emergencies are a fair share of calls that range from weird to annoying.

For instance, a man recently called 911 to report a mouse in his house, and he didn't know what he should do to get rid of it.

There was also a case of a man who just wanted some deer meat.

"We take a list of names of people that would like have deer meat if we have someone involved in a crash, and we had some calling 911 to be put on that list recently...to get deer meat," said Bonnie Short, Butler County Dispatch Manager.

So how much does the abuse of 911 really happen?

"Daily. Every day. Every shift. Sometimes more than others," said Short.

Dispatchers across the area say it's no laughing matter.

"If your calling in for a non-emergency you could in fact take a call away from somebody who desperately needed to get a hold of us in a true emergency," said Captain Richard Schmaltz with Cincinnati Police. "Generally about 31,000 911 calls come into this center every month so we do over 370,000 a year and it's important because we only have so many call takers so when everyone calls at the same time it can overload the system. So it's extremely important that the people that call in, call for a true emergency."

All agencies agree that nuisance calls are, in effect, going to stop someone else from getting the help they need.

"If I have two on duty we're answering two lines at a time. If I have three on duty we are answering three lines but if I have five calls coming in, I can't see which ones are true emergencies until we actually answer the phone," said Short.

"If you need the police there for a true emergency, that constitutes a 911 call. If you're in doubt, call 911," said Schmaltz. "But a lot of times, we get people wanting to know what time 4-6 traffic is, what time the streets are closed for special events, even what to dial for 911 as ridiculous as it sounds."

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