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  1. ITV Report

Tens of thousands still call 999 when it's not an emergency

Thousands of non-urgent calls are still going to 999 instead of 101 Photo: ITV News Anglia

An ITV News Anglia investigation has found 999 police phone lines are still being clogged up with tens of thousands of non-emergency calls despite the introduction of a new service to tackle the problem.

When the non-emergency 101 number started being rolled out across our region two years ago, it was hoped it would put an end to inappropriate 999 calls. However, last year alone, our police forces still handled more than 195,000 non-emergency 999 calls.

Two of our counties - Essex and Buckinghamshire - even saw a rise in the number of non-emergency calls since the introduction of the 101 number._

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Non-emergency calls to 999 in the western part of the Anglia region
Non-emergency calls to 999 in the eastern part of the Anglia region

The police forces say, while some of them are hoax or time-wasting calls, others are made in good faith with members of the public believing they're doing the right thing.

Kate Edgar, a call operator at Norfolk Police, told us she is always happy to help people when they believe there is a genuine emergency. However, she says it can be frustrating when people do not think before dialling 999.

She said: "I think we hear a lot of calls which start on the 999 line with 'this isn't an emergency but....' I don't know what we can do about those other than promote the 101 number."

"My first ever 999 call was someone who rang up because they're kitten had jumped out of a window, which obviously might be very important for them but it's not very pressing for us."

– Kate Edgar, call operator at Norfolk Police
The 101 police number was introduced to reduce pressure on the 999 emergency number Credit: ITV News Anglia

The region's police forces say it is important to recognise when to dial 999 and when to dial 101. They are reminding members of the public that the 999 phone line should only be contacted in an emergency - for example, when a crime is being committed or in life-or-death situations.

"Just think twice about which number you're going to call. Both numbers are there and they're available. Very easy to remember. Make your own judgement on whether this is an emergency or not and try and preserve the importance of 999."

– Supt Neil Baily, Norfolk Police

Click below to watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Lauren Hall