'A stranger stroked my horse' - French police inundated with oddball virus queries

Lyon (AFP) –


"Can my husband spend the weekend with his mistress?" "A stranger stroked my horse, could he have infected it?" France's police emergency number has been inundated with queries, some downright odd, since the country went into coronavirus lockdown.

The quick-dial emergency "17" number reserved for matters of a criminal nature, has been abused more than usual with thousands of calls since a period of home confinement for French residents started on March 17, duty officers told AFP.

"There has been an explosion in the number of calls, multiplied by three," said a police official in northern France.

"People are calling for everything and nothing, because they are bored. Some just want to talk," another policeman said.

In Dijon in the country's east, a woman called the number seeking romantic advice.

"After my divorce, I managed to find someone. But he lives 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) from my place. How do I deal with confinement?" she asked an incredulous responder on the other end.

"We get serious calls for information" but also "abusive calls that border on stupidity," said another police member.

"We had one rather libertine couple call to ask if the husband can spend the weekend with his mistress as he normally does!"

Police on patrol have also encountered some gems.

One motorist from Picardie in the north explained in all earnestness at a checkpoint that he was 50 km from home "because he needed to buy cassoulet" -- a typical bean and sausage dish.

While sometimes amusing, police are especially riled by misuse of the emergency number at a time when home confinement has led to a rise in reports of domestic violence and neighbourly disputes.

Of course, many in France have also taken to dialling "17" to snitch on neighbours receiving guests at home against the lockdown rules, or to report people they suspect of leaving the house too often, personnel reported.