Nuisance 999 calls are putting lives at risk

PUBLISHED: 17:15 03 May 2007 | UPDATED: 22:46 28 May 2010

Inspector Tim Masta in the 999 control room

Inspector Tim Masta in the 999 control room

BOGUS and nuisance 999 calls have become a nightmare for police and are putting lives at risk, says the team who run Cambridgeshire s control room. Nothing surprises me anymore with regards to bogus or nuisance calls, we ve had it all, said Steve Quince

BOGUS and nuisance 999 calls have become a nightmare for police and are putting lives at risk, says the team who run Cambridgeshire's control room.

"Nothing surprises me anymore with regards to bogus or nuisance calls, we've had it all," said Steve Quincey, the force's control supervisor.

"We've had people calling 999 because they need to know the bus times, to others who call the emergency number because they hate the police and want to rant."

According to call takers, a large number of the 140,000 999 calls to Cambridgeshire police are not an emergency.

"It prevents us doing our job properly because other people, with genuine emergencies, will be phoning and there won't be the operators to take their calls - especially if it's a busy shift," said Mr Quincey.

Inspector Tim Nasta, a control room inspector, said: "It's a sad fact that we get a vast number of 999 calls for situations which should never need an emergency response by police.

"I would estimate more than 70 per cent of calls into the force control room are not emergencies and should have gone through on the '0845' number."

He and his team who receive and deal with 999 calls are used to dealing with genuine emergencies which are often 'life and death' situations.

However the call takers - both police staff and police officers - who are trained to deal with high pressure situations, are too often distracted by non-emergency and even bogus calls.

Insp Nasta added: "Essentially, call 999 with an emergency. If you're not sure if your incident is an emergency, and you dial the wrong number, we can easily put you through to the correct call handler to deal with your incident.

"It's sad to say but to those who get a kick out of wasting police time and being a public nuisance, they won't care that they risk others' lives.

"And for those who want information on transport times - don't call 999. There are other organisations out there which can help you. You should know better."

A TYPICAL shift in the police control room, the hub of day-to-day activity - staff are dealing with emergency incidents when this call comes in:

09.30: Two cars collide head-on. Oscar one (a control room inspector) is notified that at least one person could be dead. Several police cars, specialist collision investigator and force helicopter scrambled.

09.31: Several ambulances called and a MAGPAS doctor is already at the scene. Fire service called as one person is trapped.

09.35: Traffic now queued back in both directions. Highways Agency and Highways Agency traffic officers are notified to manage traffic and set up diversion route.

09.49: Confirmed fatal - all emergency services working to deal with the situation as quickly as possible for the sake the injured and their families who are yet to hear the news.

Then:

09.50: 999 call received by police - one spider in bath and a member of public is unable to take shower. They want police assistance.

Unusual? Not really. Typical false 999 calls have included:

# "Who is the on-call chemist for my area?"

# "Can you tell me the next train time?"

# "I've missed my bus, when is the next one?"

# "I don't like my council house - can you help me swap it?"

# "I have missed my bus - can I have a lift from an officer?"

# "There is a bush on fire and I don't want to call the fire brigade in case they charge. Can an officer put the fire out?"

# "I am at the airport and have forgotten my passport - can an officer go to my house and get it for me?"

# "I reported a shed burglary last week, how is the investigation going?"

# "I had a spicy Indian last night and I need someone to put the 'fire' out in a certain part of my body!"

# "I need to know the speed limit on the A14 - I am arguing with my partner about what it is.

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