One or two times a year, the Sturgeon Bay Police Department receives repeated phone calls from people trying to use 911 to order a pizza or grab a cab. The department currently can’t do anything to deter those kinds of callers, but if a new city ordinance passes repeated nuisance calls could earn the caller a $200 fine.
“We’re not talking about a first time caller,” said Capt. Dan Brinkman. “If they call back a second, third, or fourth time that’s what we’re concerned with.”
Brinkman said a lot of cities already have similar ordinances in place to discourage non-emergency calls that tie up 911 lines.
Sturgeon Bay Alderman and Community Protection and Services Committee Chair Bob Schlicht said his committee had a lengthy discussion about what would and would not actually constitute an emergency call before recommending the ordinance to the city council.
“If [a caller] feels it’s an emergency call, it’ll be handled as a legitimate 911 call and treated as one,” said Schlicht. “The police department assured us their only concern was multiple offenders who knew what they were doing and doing it on purpose.”
Brinkman said 911 operators will still provide taxi service numbers to those who do call from a bar asking for a cab, just as they do now, but the ordinance will allow them to fine people who keep calling 911 looking for police to send them a cab instead of calling the cab company.
“We don’t want to discourage people who are at the bar looking for a taxi. That’s not what the system is for, but we don’t want to discourage that person,” said Brinkman.
The ordinance is also not designed to target children who may call 911 multiple times.
“There we’d respond and educate the child and talk to the parents,” said Brinkman. “We get those all the time. That’s not what this is for.”
Callers who violate the ordinance would be fined $200 for a first offense and $300 for every offense after that. The ordinance is up for a second reading at the Sturgeon Bay Common Council’s March 19 meeting.