Shawano to fine non-emergency 911 callers - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Shawano to fine non-emergency 911 callers

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SHAWANO (AP) -

911 calls are pouring into Shawano County Dispatch. But the Shawano Police Chief says hundreds of those calls aren't emergencies. Now the city has approved an ordinance that would fine those callers.

It's the first phone number many of us learn - 911, but the Shawano Police Chief says too many people are dialing it when there is no emergency.

"488 911 calls this year alone, 457 of those calls were non-emergency calls for service," said Shawano Police Chief Ed Whealon.

Now those callers can be fined. After 2 non-emergency 911 calls in 6 months, fines will start at $100. The price goes up to $1000 for repeat offenders.

The chief says people have become dependent on 911 for the wrong services.

"We have people calling 911 asking if someone is in jail or just trying to get general information," said Chief Whealon.

Officials say cell phones are making the problem even worse. A lot of the hang up calls they get are pocket dials from cell phones

"Parents think that because they no longer have a cell phone paid for, but its still live, they can give it to their children to play with but that phone still has the ability to dial 911," said Maria McCoy, Communications Supervisor for the Shawano County Sheriff's Department.

The problem is the non-emergency calls are a waste.

"Any 911 call that comes through, that hangs up, and even accidentally dials, we send an officer out to meet with the person," said McCoy.

"This is a total waste of tax dollars when this happens because we're spending time looking for calls that are not 911 related. It's wasting the dispatchers time. It's wasting our time," said Chief Whealon.

But officials say they dont want to discourage people from calling 911 in a real emergency.

Shawano County is looking to adopt a similar ordinance. Dispatches have already received over 1,000 hang up 911 calls this year. The County Board will vote on the ordinance October 23.

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