Police issue reminder over bogus 999 calls

POLICE have issued a reminder to residents that abusing the 999 system can risk lives.

Essex Police said that in the last two months emergency call handlers received calls that not only wasted police time but also could have delayed them responding to a genuine emergency.

Some of the bogus calls included one on Christmas Day when a man dialed 999 to report a fault with his battery-operated heated gloves. Three days later a call handler answered an emergency call from a man who wanted to know if his bank in Basildon was open.

Earlier in December a woman called to ask if a police officer could call at her house to remove a spider because she was scared of it.

Other examples of time wasting 999 calls received recently include a drunk man asking police to collect a pizza from a restaurant on his behalf as he had had too much to drink to drive and another intoxicated man phoning to report that he had seen a chef in a takeaway restaurant drop a burger on the floor before serving it to someone.

Between April 2010 and March 2011, Essex Police received 2441 nuisance calls and 733 hoax calls.

Chief Insp Alan Gooden from the Force Information Room said: “Essex Police deals with around 25,000 emergency 999 calls a month so it’s vital our resources are reserved for people who really do need urgent help.

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“The 999 system is something that must not be abused. We have a finite number of resources and we need people to be responsible.”

Police said they would continue to take strong action against persistent nuisance callers and those that repeatedly abuse the 999 service.

Residents were reminded that knowingly making a hoax call to 999 is a criminal offence and can result in a heavy fine, and more seriously, a criminal record and prison sentence.

The force said it defined an emergency situation as one where there is a crime or serious incident in progress, a serious risk of injury or a risk of serious damage to property.

Residents were reminded that if they don’t need immediate help or just require advice or information they should call 101.