Police tell 999 callers to get serious or get cut off

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A POLICE force has launched a campaign to stop people clogging up the 999 emergency system with time-wasting calls.

South Yorkshire Police said it was receiving an increasing number of inappropriate calls, which take up vital time when life-or-death emergencies need to be handled.

Among the more bizarre calls the force has received are: a man who rang to say two squirrels were fighting in his back garden; a couple who had handcuffed themselves together for a joke and then lost the key; a woman who dialled 999 because she had a problem with her knitting; a woman driving on the M1 who rang from her mobile phone to find out the time; and a man who asked if the police could deal with the birds singing on his roof because he could not get any sleep.

Superintendent Graham Cassidy, head of the force's communications department, said: "It's mind-boggling how anybody could think we could assist with a problem with knitting or how anybody driving down the M1 could phone to ask the time.

"The 999 service is for real emergencies. People should realise they are delaying genuine calls."

South Yorkshire Police was now receiving more than 18,000 999 calls a month, he said. The calls included realemergencies such as bank raids and car crashes - but officers were also worried that vital minutes were being used up for no good reason by trivial requests.

Any non-emergency calls were now being transferred to a recorded message that advised callers to ring the central switchboard number on 0114-220 2020, Supt Cassidy said.

Persistent nuisance callers were also being warned that if problems continued, they risked having their telephone cut off permanently by BT.

The new campaign would not mean any genuine emergencies would be ignored, Supt Cassidy stressed.