In every job, there is an element of the absurd. For the law enforcement officers of the Bay Area, the absurdity manifests itself as raccoons, nudity, Scooby Doo masks and elephant dung.

Following is our annual roundup of the most amusing/puzzling items on the reports submitted to the Mercury News by police agencies. For daily blotter reports throughout the year, see our blotter page.

Animals

Foster City, Aug. 5: A woman screaming was determined to be reacting to the raccoon in her backyard.

Redwood City, Aug. 14, 12:22 a.m.: A resident complained that a neighbor was holding her cat captive in a cage.

Redwood City, Aug. 14, 12:25 a.m.: A disturbance was reported over ownership rights to a cat.

Burlingame, June 2: A woman who found her dog wrapped in 10 feet of tape told police she suspected someone was playing a prank.

Burlingame, June 26: A resident reported seeing a deer. Police responded. The deer looked fine.

Noise

Burlingame, Nov. 13: Moaning was heard in a neighbor's yard. Police responded and found a child playing.

Belmont, March 21: A man asked police to help him adjust the volume on his OnStar, which was so loud his neighbors were complaining.

Burlingame, Aug. 28: A woman reported to be standing in the street and screaming turned out to be engaged in a phone conversation.


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Burlingame, Dec. 1: Police responded to a noise complaint at a blood drive and determined that nothing out of the ordinary was going on.

Fremont, Feb. 12: A woman called 911 to report that her husband, who she had thought was the source of the noises downstairs, had just called her on the phone. She is now hiding in the closet.

Foster City, Sept. 23: Police who responded to a resident distressed by animal sounds determined the issue was more about the medication he was taking.

Burlingame, Nov. 14: An opera singer was reported to be creating a disturbance again.

Belmont, May 22: Saxophone complaint.

Interpersonal relations

Redwood City, Nov. 20: A woman who called 911 about her husband's drinking said she didn't want him arrested, she just wanted him not to drink anymore.

Redwood City, Aug. 28: A man called police after his wife got upset with him for asking her boyfriend to stop phoning him.

Foster City, June 13: A man who felt he should be able to leave home on occasion without his wife asked police to mediate the difference of opinion.

Newark, May 20: A 15-year-old girl admitted to police that she had not actually escaped abductors by rubbing her restraints against a rock but had invented the story to make her boyfriend feel bad about not taking her out for ice cream.

Burlingame, Sept. 18: A resident reported that a neighbor "has been pounding on his door for almost a year."

Belmont, July 16: A resident reported that he was bothered by the glare from his neighbor's new roof.

Burlingame, July 3: A woman who found flour on her doorstep was provided with conflict resolution information.

Foster City, July 24: A woman reported that her her friend had failed to answer the phone or the doorbell for more than four hours. Police determined that the friend was trying to avoid her.

Suspicions, stress

Atherton, May 9: A suspicious man was reported running wind sprints wearing dress pants and an orange shirt.

Foster City, Feb. 22: A person reported being followed all the way home by a stranger who then parked on his street. He was informed that the other driver was his neighbor.

San Mateo, Oct. 26: A person told police that a couple with pink hair sitting in the middle of the street seemed out of place.

Burlingame, Aug. 18: A woman reported her concern about random sightings -- four times in four months -- of a man she did not know.

Burlingame, Aug. 15: A man was reported to be blind and lost. Police determined he was neither.

Redwood City, June 14: A man was sitting in a vehicle, waving puppets and staring at people.

Foster City, July 25: A suspicious man sitting in a silver van for three nights in a row was determined to be taking advantage of an unsecured wi-fi connection.

Redwood City, June 21: A strange woman was sitting on a person's porch and reading the newspaper shortly after midnight.

Foster City, June 28: A suspicious man who exited a hut near the San Mateo Bridge every time a plane flew overhead told the officer that he was an aviation enthusiast awaiting the Airbus A380 from Frankfurt.

Belmont, June 2: A person reported to be lying on the ground crying had dropped a cellphone in the drain.

San Mateo, May 30: A man was talking to plants for a while.

Atherton, July 24: A person reported being stopped by a stranger who said, "You are beautiful."

Burlingame, Nov. 19: A woman who found a suspicious powder-filled pipe in her secondhand piano was advised that it was a moisture-removal device.

Foster City, Oct. 24: A resident who had received a letter that disturbed her brought it to the police station to show to an officer.

Foster City, June 28: A suspicious item floating in the lagoon was determined to be a doll's head.

Foster City, June 25: A suspicious vehicle was reported: a white van with a telescoping antenna, occupied by people with video cameras. Police determined it was a KTVU news crew working on a story.

Redwood City, June 28: A person who saw a man carrying a purse worried it could be stolen.

Belmont, July 12: A woman told police she thought she was being held against her will.

Burlingame, June 2: A woman who received a phone call from a former hairdresser she hadn't seen in decades reported feeling uneasy about it.

Redwood City, March 25: A man worried that marijuana smoke from the alley was going to kill him.

Belmont, Sept. 11: A woman having a stress attack said she preferred eating broccoli and carrots to medical attention.

Masks, disguises

Fremont, Jan. 11: A man wearing a dog leash, a full-head Scooby Doo mask and little else was reported to be cavorting in the Lucky parking lot. He had pants on when police arrived and told them he had lost weight and was showing off his new body.

Belmont, March 20: A woman saw a man wearing a gas mask walking up a hill.

Burlingame, Nov. 26: A man wearing a Spider-Man mask who had spread his belongings on the floor of a shop was advised to leave.

Fremont, July 8: Jack in the Box was robbed at gunpoint by a man wearing a Halloween mask who took a moment to don the headset and let drive-through customers know it would be just a sec.

Palo Alto, Aug. 23: A bank was robbed by a person with waist-length hair, frayed and frizzy. Witnesses said they could not determine the culprit's gender, race or age.

Juveniles

Foster City, Oct. 24: Parents asked police to speak with their child about getting kicked out of preschool for fighting.

San Mateo, Aug. 30: A woman told police a 10-year-old neighbor had been videotaping her, for whatever reason.

Burlingame, Aug. 1: Police responded to a disagreement between a mother and a son over their Internet speed.

Foster City, July 24: Police mediated a situation in which two skateboarders were reportedly making fun of a tennis player.

Burlingame, Oct. 24: A child thought missing was found in bed, asleep under a pile of stuffed animals.

Sex, nudity

Redwood City, April 18: A resident reported hearing sexual activity by the garbage cans.

Redwood City, Aug. 9: Sexual activity was reported in a cemetery.

San Mateo, Nov. 7: A naked man, short and heavyset, was showering in the alley with a garden hose.

Redwood City, Oct. 18: A naked man near the car wash was properly attired when police arrived.

Redwood City, Aug. 16: A mother with her children in a laundromat reported a fellow patron had undressed to include what she was wearing in her load.

Property crimes

Campbell, April 30: A person returned home and found all the cords cut on his electric appliances.

Foster City, Jan. 24; A woman who returned home and found Q-Tips placed on the floor of her bathroom told police that strange occurrences had happened previously.

Redwood City, Dec. 1: A man rang a person's doorbell, then went to the backyard, made a loud banging sound, tore up a chunk of lawn, and left.

Foster City, Nov. 3: Four vehicles in a cul-de-sac were vandalized with a substance akin to butter.

Burlingame, Sept. 11: A resident reported finding a rusted cash register drawer full of cobwebs in his yard.

Redwood City, Aug. 17: A man found a pair of shorts and two knives stuck in the ground outside his house.

Burlingame, Sept. 26: Police contacted a couple who threw a dirty diaper out their car window and instructed them to clean up the mess.

Fremont, Sept. 25: Among items stolen from a business were an ice machine and a surveillance system.

Redwood City, Sept. 20: A male shoplifter at Kmart stole inner tubes, soda and doughnuts.

Redwood City, Sept. 22: Two female shoplifters fled with bags full of toothbrushes.

Niles, Sept. 17: A vehicle was ransacked by someone who took only one item: a bag of elephant dung the owner had received as a gag gift. Police suspected the thief mistook it for marijuana.

At work

Campbell, Jan. 29: A man had been calling an office 10 times a day, three days a week for two months, each time whispering comments about the physical appearance of the employees.

Burlingame, April 18: Firefighters assisted a thrift shop employee who was unable to get out of handcuffs.

Redwood City, Oct. 19, 3:18 a.m.: A man asleep in a cafe refused to leave.

Redwood City, Oct. 19, 5:45 a.m.: Now there are four people asleep in the cafe and refusing to leave. They were gone when police arrived.

Fremont, Sept. 4: A woman who locked herself in the restroom at a Peet's Coffee and refused to come out was shirtless and screaming when officers broke the door down.

Burlingame, Nov. 13: A construction worker was reportedly rude to someone.

Combat and weaponry

Fremont, Nov. 26: A man was seen pointing a gun at another man in the Walmart parking lot. The weapon turned out to be an unloaded BB gun the pair had just purchased. They agreed it probably wasn't a good idea to be playing with it there.

Los Gatos, March 29: Eggs thrown during an argument between two adults resulted in one complaint of pain.

Burlingame, Aug. 18: Two roommates were screaming and throwing things during a dispute over the use of a vacuum cleaner.

Burlingame, Aug. 4: A man was hiding behind a tree at Ray Park and pretending to shoot people with a popsicle stick.

Burlingame, Sept. 12: A man with a picture of a gun on his cellphone was pointing it at people as if it were a real gun.

Burlingame, Highland Avenue, May 31, 1:05 p.m.: A woman who was jumping in front of moving cars told police she was upset about speeding. An officer advised her to call police instead of taking matters into her own hands.

Burlingame, Highliand Avenue, May 31, 6:09 p.m.: A person jumped in front of a car and pepper-sprayed the driver.

One long night

Foster City, Killdeer Court, Sept. 5-6

3:56 p.m.: A woman reported hearing men talking outside her house and thought they might be trying to steal her potted plants.

7:03 p.m.: A woman said she heard people whispering and walking inside her house. Police checked the residence and found nothing.

2:13 a.m.: A woman reported seeing people in military uniforms inside her house. Police assured her that the residence was secure.

4:35 a.m.: A woman reported that two people had been camped out in her bedroom for 10 hours. Police determined that the claim was unfounded.

7:12 a.m.: A woman complained about people inside her house who refused to leave. Police found no one.

7:58 a.m.: Police located a friend to look after a woman barricaded inside a home.

8:31 a.m.: An officer was flagged down by a passerby who had noticed the front door of a home standing open. The officer checked the residence and shut the door.

Forget it, Jake. It's Atherton.

Atherton, Aug. 4: A vehicle was parked on the street for more than an hour on a Sunday afternoon.

Atherton, June 24: A resident reported that things in her home seemed out of place. It was determined that the housekeeper had moved them.

Atherton, June 9: A resident complained about music from a church on a Sunday morning.

Grab bag

Burlingame, Jan. 17: Calls for police assistance included an injured raccoon, a juvenile with a nosebleed, someone who got sick on a bus, and a boy with his head stuck in a fixture.

Belmont, Nov. 8: Police were contacted by a person wanting to speak to someone about bringing religion back into the world.

Metablotter

Foster City, June 6: A person went to the police station and asked to speak to someone about a crime blotter item in the newspaper.