Police crack down on 999 time-wasters

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The Independent Online

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

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

South Yorkshire Police say they are receiving an increasing number of inappropriate calls which take up vital time when life-or-death emergencies need to be dealt with.

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 on her mobile phone to find out the time;

And a man who ask 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 were now receiving more than 18,000 999 calls a month, he said.

The calls included life-or-death emergencies such as bank raids and car crashes - but officers were also worried that vital minutes are being used up for no good reason by trivial calls.

Any non-emergency calls were now being transferred to a recorded message which advised callers that they should ring the central switchboard number on (0114) 220 2020 Mr Cassidy said.

Persistent nuisance callers were also being warned that if problems continued, they risked BT cutting them off permanently from the telephone system.

The new campaign would not mean that genuine emergencies would be ignored, Mr Cassidy stressed.

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