911, What's Your Emergency? "A pet raccoon in my yard" (VIDEO)

By Stephanie Parkinson - 21Alive

September 4, 2013 Updated Sep 6, 2013 at 9:19 AM EDT

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (21Alive) - Allen County's dispatch center takes 750,000 calls every year, but two out of every three calls aren't an emergency.

Recently a woman called 911 because she says she saw a raccoon in her backyard.

"Caller: Who do I call if a pet raccoon in my yard, and he's a big one too. Can you get somebody over here right away? Dispatcher: It's a pet raccoon. Caller: Yeah, girl."

These types of calls can take up a lot of time for the dispatchers.

"Dispatcher: Unfortunately the outdoors is their natural habitat. Caller: But he in my yard though, he ain't supposed to be on my property. Dispatcher: I understand but outside, they don't know property."

"Anytime that you're reducing the number of resources you have to truly affect public safety, and meeting the needs of the people who truly need that resource, then you're putting lives in peril," said Tim Lee, Executive Director, Allen County Dispatch Center.

People often call 911 because they see a tire in the road on I-69, or because there is a strange car parked in front of their house. But, if you are in Allen County, the number Lee suggests to dial instead is 311. It still gets you to police, but it keeps those emergency lines clear.

"A shoplifter that doesn't constitute a threat could be handled through an administrative line, but if you've got an active shooter or you have someone in a school that is potentially an active shooter, or bank robberies, or people that are in cardiac arrest, that's what we want to know about," said Lee.

But many of the calls are simply not for things 911 dispatchers are there to help with.

"My son or my child won't get out of bed for school, there's a rabid animal in my yard."

Still these types of calls come in daily. And in many cases will tie up phone lines for people who are in true emergencies.




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