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Inappropriate use of 999 puts lives at risk

Credit: Kent Police

Kent Police is warning that inappropriate use of the emergency number 999 could be putting lives at risk.

In one seven hour shift in June, 44% of calls did not warrant an emergency response.

Some of the people who dialled 999 explained that they were not prepared to wait for the 101 service to be answered and others were short of mobile telephone credit so used 999 as it is free.

The public are being urged to only use 999 in a genuine emergency and to use 101 for all non-emergency situations.

An average of 1500 calls are made to the non-emergency 101 number in Kent every single day.

An average of 900 calls are made to Kent Police on the 999 number.

Examples of inappropriate calls taken by the 999 operatives:

  • Report bad driving in the Dartford area that happened 10 minutes before
  • Caller did not want to wait in the queue for 101
  • Prank call made in Broadstairs
  • Caller wanted update on a stolen car enquiry
  • Caller wanted some information on a car being sold
  • Mother refusing to hand over property following family dispute in Lydd
  • Nuisance bike riding around a residential housing estate in East Malling
  • Car speeding in Dartford – no registration given

We’re not doing this to shame or embarrass the people who’ve dialled 999. We just want people to think first whether their call really does constitute a real emergency. We are currently experiencing an extremely high number of calls to both 999 and 101 and at peak times it can take us longer than usual to answer 101 calls as emergency calls are prioritised."

"Our operators answer calls as quickly as possible, in strict priority order and I’d ask people to be patient and try again later if possible. We are looking at ways to reduce call congestion and developing ways that the public can report some matters online and make contact via the Kent Police Website."

– Chief Superintendent Nicola Faulconbridge, Head of Crime and Incident Response

Only call 999 when:

  • There is a danger to life or a risk of injury being caused imminently. Examples include serious road accidents, assaults or serious disorders.
  • A crime in in progress. Examples include assault, burglary, and theft or if an offender is still on scene, or has just left the scene.
  • Police attendance is required immediately such as to prevent a breach of peace, someone acting suspiciously or someone who is about to commit an offence.
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A 15-year-old girl from Westbury has been arrested after making 30 hoax calls to Wiltshire Police.

Most of the calls contained abusive and threatening language and during one of them, another caller who was in a genuine emergency only had seconds to tell operators her address.

If the operator had been delayed in answering this call, the consequences could have been tragic.

Operational Policing Superintendent Gavin Williams said, "The time wasted on dealing with hoax calls can mean the difference between life and death for people genuinely trying to contact us."

Wiltshire Police take on average 250 999 calls each day, with only a handful of them being urgent.

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