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'Swatted': Police, fire respond to fake calls in south Barrie

'Deployment of resources and personnel is calculated, measured and, sadly, when false, can compromise our response to legitimate calls for service,' says police official
Barrie police got a fake weapons call on Thursday, Feb. 22.

A south-Barrie neighbourhood experienced some unwanted excitement after both police and fire got fake calls for help on Thursday afternoon.

City police responded to a weapons call around 2 p.m., Feb. 22, on Churchland Drive — near Mapleview Drive West and Essa Road.

Not long after, Barrie Fire and Emergency Service crews received a call about a structure fire at the same location.

Both ended up being fake calls, confirmed officials with both departments. 

“We responded to a weapons-related call that in the end posed no threat to public safety. The information provided to police was determined to be false and inaccurate” Barrie police communications coordinator Peter Leon said.

“Police respond to calls for service and deploy the necessary resources to deal with the situation based upon the details that are provided to our call-takers," he added. "The deployment of resources and personnel is calculated, measured and, sadly, when false, can compromise our response to legitimate calls for service in the community."

At least one officer was carrying a high-powered weapon down the middle of the street at the south-end scene.

Barrie police and fire both received fake calls for service on Thursday, Feb. 22 in the city's south end. | Michael Chorney/At the Scene Photography

Deputy Fire Chief Carrie Clark said one truck arrived at the scene and ultimately crews were told by police to “stand down” as there was no fire.

“It came in as a structure fire and then while we were responding, police had just cleared that (area)," she said. "We have a standing protocol to notify police when we are attending a structure fire and they gave us the information that they’d just been there. They returned and identified that there was no fire emergency."

These types of calls are not something either department gets often, said both Leon and Clark.

“Sometimes, if someone is on a spree, we can get them. We still respond as though the information is accurate,” said Clark.

It can often be easy to determine the call is fake based on what the communications operator is hearing in the background, she said. 

“They’re not responding to our questions the same, or they usually disconnect when we downstream them to police," Clark said. "The sounds in the background are not consistent with what they are saying … (we) are taking in all of that holistic information.

"It’s significantly different than when you’re talking to someone who is looking at a fire and that is all noted in the call.”

Protocol is always to respond as though every call is a true emergency.

“If they say fire or they say smoke, you must send the cavalry," Clark said. "We still respond as though it’s normal, but when we connect with our police partners, usually they have been swatted at the same time and are en route or they’ve been there already. It is what it is."

No charges have been laid at this point, noted Leon. However, this type of behaviour could result in mischief charges.