Hoax 999 callers are being warned they face fines of £90 for wasting police time. On New Year’s Eve last year, a total of 1,710 calls were made to South Yorkshire Police between 7am on 31 December and 7 am on January 1.
This is compared to between 1,100 and 1,200 on an average day or 1,400 on a particularly busy day.
At worst, they could divert police officers away from other, genuine incidents, which could have grave consequences. Many hoax callers are in drink, especially at this time of year, and think it’s acceptable to try and use police officers as a taxi service. Others, who are friendlier but just as serious in terms of time-wasting, want to wish call handlers Happy New Year. I cannot stress enough the importance of only ringing 999 in a genuine emergency.
While a call to 999 to wish handlers a Happy New Year may seem funny after a few pints, I can assure would-be pranksters that we take such incidents seriously
– Tracy Potter, operations manager South Yorkshire Police
South Yorkshire Police are warning the public not to make unnecessary 999 calls tonight, on what is traditionally their busiest night of the year. Some people have even used the emergency number to ask for a taxi home, putting already-stretched police resources under additional pressure.
Between December 20th and 29th, South Yorkshire Police call handlers dealt with a total of 5,471 calls to 999, around 70 per cent of which were not a true emergency. A smaller proportion of those were nuisance calls from people being abusive, wanting a chat or making a false report of crime.
One drunken caller rang to tell police that he had been to the pub and was now in a supermarket. He said he was “letting police know where he was and that he was okay.” One woman kept a call handler on the line for 16 minutes while saying she was drunk and she wasn’t sure what she was reporting.
And another woman rang to complain that officers who had attended her house to deal with a reported crime had “walked dog mess” into the property.
There is a controversial debate over whether you should punish drivers of emergency vehicles when they're involved in accidents en route to 999 call outs.
Nicola Stacey was killed when her car collided with a fire engine responding to an emergency call in Sheffield. Despite evidence that the vehicle was exceeding speed guidelines, the driver has never been prosecuted.
Every year there are thousands of crashes involving emergency vehicles and now Nicola's case is being featured on ITV's Tonight programme this evening - which asks should we prosecute? Tina Gelder reports.
In June 2008 Nicola Stacey was killed in Sheffield when a fire engine responding to a 999 call went through a red light and crashed into Nicola's car. She died at the scene and her daughter Lauren was left in a medically induced coma due to her injuries.
Her partner Barry Stevens feels they have never had justice.
Around 700 homes in Lincolnshire are unable to dial 999 for emergency assistance. BT has identified the problem in the Langrick area for telephone numbers starting 01205 28. The problem should be fixed by midnight, but should anybody need to, then the advice is to ring 999 from a mobile phone.