Bogus 911 calls wasting taxpayers money

By Tara Cardoso - bio | email
Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - Bogus 911 calls may make you chuckle, but they're a real problem in our area. Recently, someone called the emergency line to complain about a Boynton Beach Burger King. The caller said the fast food joint didn't get his order right.

We did a little research and found out people are calling 911 for a lot more than just fast food furies. In fact, someone actually called to find the location of a swinger's club in Palm Beach County.

It's a waste of your tax dollars and pulls resources away from the real emergencies, and it happens all the time.

Here are some examples:

Caller: "We had about 100 rats next to the apartment."
911: "A hundred what?"
Caller: "Rats."
911: "Madam, the fire department doesn't take care of rats."

We dug up bogus 911 calls and couldn't believe our ears. Here's what happened after the operator tried to free up the line.

Caller: "I need somebody to listen, because my mother is eating poison over here, because the rats from the empty apartment [moved] to her apartment, and they eat all the food."

The Palm Beach County Emergency Call Center handles close to 50,000 calls a year, and tells us bogus calls are a big problem. They waste time when every second counts.

Here's another one:

Caller: "I have a plant that was moved from my backyard into my front yard, and I wonder if you are the people I'm supposed to call."
911: "This is the fire department. We have nothing to do with your plant being moved from backyard to the front yard."

What many people don't realize is that as soon as you call 911, crews are dispatched immediately even while the operator is still on the line. That means an ambulance or a fire truck would be on the way to someone's house tying up manpower and burning gas for no reason. That's your tax dollars disappearing.

What do you think about this next so-called emergency?

Caller: "The kitchen sink is full of ants. Billions and billions crawling all over the kitchen sink."

Operators are trained to get non emergencies off the line as quickly as possible.

Sandi Lippel, a dispatcher, said, "Part of it is frustrating and part of it is funny. You wonder what is going through these people's minds that they have to call for something like that."

Some people, however, just don't get the hint. The person complaining about the ants wouldn't stop.

Caller: "What can you do? This is urgent, very urgent. I can't go to sleep like this."

Anyone caught making a bogus 911 call can be arrested for misusing 911. It's a first degree misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to one year in jail.