For 24 hours from 5am yesterday Greater Manchester Police published details of every incident it dealt with on Twitter. The idea, its Chief Constable said, was to show two-thirds of its calls were not about crime. They were "social work": missing persons, mental health patients, and uncontrolled children making 999 calls from mobile phones that had not been locked. "We are the agency of last resort," the police chief said, as funding to councils and charities is cut that will get worse and "we will be left holding the baby". Literally in the case of Call 384 which said: "Report of man holding baby over bridge – police immediately attended; it was man carrying dog that doesn't like bridges."
Pranksters had a field day, setting up rival Twitter accounts. "Reports of an ice-cream vendor dead; found to have been covered in chocolate sauce and nuts. We reckon he's topped himself." And: "Abandoned 999 call. Something about 'help I'm being kidna'. No action taken." But what about Call 686: "Man shouts 'you're gorgeous' to woman." Call 1634: "Suspicious men carrying a snake, Bolton." Or Call 849: "Attempted theft of a caravan, could have happened anytime in the past two weeks, Rochdale." They were all true. Perhaps it's not all that funny after all.