A suggestion by Toronto's Mayor Rob Ford that people could call 911 to report graffiti gave numerous Torontonians a chance to practice their comedy-writing chops.

Dialing 911 is normally reserved for reporting emergencies such as fires, car accidents and heart attacks.

At Tuesday's city council meeting, councillors unanimously passed a new graffiti management plan that will see a panel of city staff review "art mural exemptions."

The plan, described in a city document as a key matter for Mayor Rob Ford, was council's first order of business.

Debating the item took several hours.

The plan does allow for an "enhanced ability for the public to report tags and other illegal graffiti through 311 Toronto."

While speaking to the issue, Ford referred to calling 911 if a citizen spotted anyone "causing graffiti."

Although it may have been a slip of the tongue, street art advocate Lisa Martin told CTV News that a June 17 staff report to council's licensing and standards committee contained the following: "The public who see properties being vandalized should report this immediately to 911."

The mayor's statement in council chambers was enough for Ford's opponents to contribute to a conversation on Twitter, the social messaging service, devoted to the theme of #new911calls. They mocked the notion of graffiti being treated as a criminal emergency.

Some samples:

  • TommyTaylor0106 Spun my bike out on a big slick of gravy on the Jarvis bike lanes
  • jjarmasz Help, obfuscation, broken logic and fact-denying is happening at #tocouncil RIGHT NOW!
  • KitsuneLindsay There are GAYS and they are having a PARADE
  • fantasticmio I just saw some shifty-looking four-year-olds carrying sidewalk chalk!

Since becoming mayor last December, Ford has made it clear he wants to rid Toronto's streets of graffiti, particularly unsightly tags that often have gang connotations.

Martin said she will wait until the final report is issued Thursday before passing judgment, but she's concerned the wording refers to "graffiti vandalism."

She felt it should just say “vandalism.” The wording puts the focus on property before people, she said.

Martin was also concerned the policy doesn't mention "open walls" and that the city panel will consider "community character and standards" in considering artworks.