Sheriff’s Dept. Barraged By Fake 911 Calls, Many From Children


A central Wisconsin sheriff’s department is asking people not to give live cell phones to children as toys, as the department is experiencing a big increase in fake 911 calls.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department has seen phony 911 calls almost triple over the past ten years, from 584 in 2002 to 1,619 in 2012. Lieutenant Tim Fischer says the dispatch center in Merrill received over 100 prank calls from just one child with a cell phone.

“Had a disabled cell phone used for gaming and things like that, and he was calling 911 many, many times over the last several months with prank calls, to he was hurt, to singing to us, to calling in a ‘man with a gun’ call.”

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A disabled cell phone will still call 911, and because it is deactivated, the call can be impossible to trace. Fischer says children who have been given live cell phones as toys can call 911 without even knowing it.

“If the screen doesn’t get locked, or if the buttons don’t get locked, sometimes there’s a ‘quick’ button on these cell phones that are programmed just to call 911. Those quick activation buttons could get pressed and 911 could get activated without the person even knowing about it.”

Fischer says this is a serious problem.

“If we’re bringing in prank calls, we can’t be answering the real ones. Somebody’s life could be endangered because somebody wanted to play a prank.”

There are hefty fines for making a false 911 call. Fischer says parents should never give a cell phone to a child to play with unless the battery has been removed. He says you should destroy old phones, or donate them to a community center.