Suffolk Police have released real examples of calls made to the 999 emergency number over the Christmas and New Year period in a bid to encourage people to think before they dial.
Throughout December last year, Control Room operators handled nearly 8,000 calls made to the 999 emergency number, almost 1,000 more calls than those received the year before. A further 13,400 calls were made to the non-emergency 101 number.
Although the Christmas and New Year periods traditionally see the Control Room at its busiest, the significant increase in 999 calls, coupled with improper use of the number, is putting officers and staff under strain to respond to real emergencies.
Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) Rachel Kearton said: “The demand on policing resources is typically at its highest over the festive season and while most people who require police assistance use the emergency number correctly, every unnecessary call impacts on our ability to help those who are vulnerable.
“As a police service, it is crucial that we are available when people need us, however we want to encourage people to think ‘is this an emergency?’ before making the call. Calls to the 999 number should only be used for situations where a crime is actually in progress or someone is in danger.”
Over the last year calls to the police’s 999 number increased by more than 16%, which equates to almost 13,000 additional calls.
ACC Kearton continues: “Our Control Room operators provide a vital service; they are highly trained to provide help to those who require immediate response and work to answer 999 calls within 10 seconds. However, the increase in demand impacts our service levels and answering inappropriate calls diverts us from responding to those who genuinely require urgent assistance, which can have tragic consequences.”
Police are urging those with non-emergency situations to refer to the Constabulary website before calling 101, which offers a wide range of advice and signposts users to the correct agency for a number of commonly-asked questions; including noisy neighbours, reporting potholes and lost property.
The website also offers an online incident reporting service, which will not replace either 101 or 999, but offers people with an additional option to report crime.
Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore said: “I fully support this Make the Right Call campaign to help everyone understand exactly who to call and which number to use – and remember that it won’t always be the police.
“It is crucially important that everyone knows how to contact the Constabulary when they need to and it’s equally important that they know which agency to call for non-policing issues.
“You would be amazed at some of the calls that come through to Suffolk’s control room and a very high percentage are not police issues at all. By checking the Constabulary’s website before you pick up the phone, you can be sure your call is directed to the correct agency, and there are plenty of issues you can now deal with online.
“The Constabulary is always going to be the agency of last resort and that is absolutely right. If you are at risk, under threat or feeling vulnerable the police will help you and that will remain the case, always.”
ACC Kearton concludes: “I would like to thank all staff and officers who worked over the festive period and whose priority is always to keep our communities safe. We also appreciate those who wished us a happy Christmas and New Year, from revellers who approached our officers on patrol to those responding to our social media updates. Here’s to a safe 2017 for us all.”