Using the memorable date of 09/09/09, police in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are urging people to think twice before they dial 999 and to only call the number for genuine emergencies.
A woman asking for directions to Southampton Central station and a boy reporting that his bike has been locked by his friend are only two examples of inappropriate 999 calls made to Hampshire Constabulary during the last year.
Since April this year, police call handlers have dealt with more than 100,000 999 calls. But only 33 per cent of these required an urgent police response.
Superintendent Julie Earle, head of the constabulary’s Call Management Department said:
“Some 999 calls are clearly not emergencies, such calls
block the emergency lines, and even the few seconds it takes our operators to deal with these calls may stop someone with a genuine need for urgent police assistance from getting through to us quickly.”
In addition to people calling 999 for non-emergency matters, there are also a number of nuisance and hoax calls, where people intentionally call 999 to report false situations. Since April this year, more than 900 hoax calls have been received by Hampshire Constabulary.
Superintendent Earle adds:
“Hoax calls mean that members of the public are dialling 999 with the clear intention to mislead the emergency services. At the time of the call my colleagues do not know that the information they are being given is incorrect, and we respond as quickly as we can to what appears to be a genuine emergency, only to find out that it is a hoax.
“This wastes time and resources and means that our resources are not available to deal with genuine emergencies that may really be a matter of life and death. Hoax calls are always highly irresponsible and in most circumstances will also be a criminal offence.”
The vast majority of inappropriate 999 calls are however not malicious – they are simply from people who have a genuine policing concern, but do not require an emergency response.
Superintendent Earle says:
“In most cases people simply do not know which number to call. As they want the police, they dial 999. Although their misuse is not intentional, it still has an adverse impact on people who really do need urgent police assistance, and we are therefore very keen to provide clear information about how to contact us for all non-emergency matters.
“Since April this year people in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight can call 101 for all police non-emergencies. This is an easy to remember number that only cost 10p per call from landlines and is free from public phone boxes, mobile call rates may vary. Alternatively, people can still call our 0845 045 4545 number.”
For some people there is confusion about when to use 999 and when to use 101. There are some simple criteria to guide people to making the right decision:
- Is someone injured?
- Is life in danger?
- Is violence involved?
- Is the crime or accident actually happening now?
If you can answer yes to at least one of these questions you should dial 999, if not please call 101 instead.
Superintendent Earle adds:
“A simple analogy which may aid understanding would be someone who has a medical concern – they may seek medical advice online or may phone their doctor to book a visit to their GP, but they wouldn’t make an emergency call for an ambulance unless they needed to get to hospital very urgently.
“The same applies to people needing the police: Call 999 if it is a genuine emergency but if it is less urgent then please contact us on one of our non-emergency access numbers.”
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