Are people misusing 911 during this pandemic?

Recently, the Martin County Sheriff’s Office came forward to ask the public to stop calling 911 with COVID-19 calls. Sheriff William Snyder said they have been receiving an inordinate number of calls with reports of social-distancing violations. He explained people witness groups playing volleyball or having a get-together, and then they call 911 rather than calling the non-emergency number.

Sheriff Snyder said he did believe the rules made by the governor about social distancing are important, and they will respond, but they are not the type of thing you call 911 about. Tying up 911 with that sort of call could mean the difference between life and death for someone else.

In Okeechobee, Sheriff Noel E. Stephen said they have received a few calls to the 911 system that should have gone to the non-emergency line, but that is always the case, and he does not believe it is any worse than normal at this time.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office did receive an interesting call on the non-emergency line recently relating to a COVID-19 issue. A woman called to report a store would not sell her toilet paper.

On April 2 at approximately 3 p.m., five Okeechobee County sheriff’s deputies, including Deputy Nathaniel Mitchell, responded to a call at a local Dollar General Store regarding a disturbance. When they arrived, they spoke to the customer, Priscilla Butler, who had called the sheriff’s office. She said she tried to buy toilet paper and paper towels, but the store would not sell it to her. She said she knew they had gotten a truck delivery of those supplies, and she claimed they sold some to the person in front of her, and she felt she was being discriminated against. She reportedly said that was the reason she was upset, and she planned to put it all on Facebook.

Deputy Mitchell then spoke to the store manager, who explained to him that the supply of paper goods they had received was for senior hour the following morning, but if any was left unsold afterward, they would sell it to others. She said she tried to explain this to Butler, but Butler was upset and cussing at them for not selling her the toilet paper and paper towels. She requested they trespass Butler from the store.

Deputy Mitchell told Butler what the manager said and let her know she was now trespassed from the store. She reportedly left without further incident.

Glades County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Gary Johnson said they have had some people call in about social-distancing violations, but they have not had any fights over toilet paper.

On behalf of the Clewiston Police Department, Marci Van d’Huynslager said they have not experienced 911 misuse as a problem thus far.

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