Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Never Ask the Cops to do...

999 time wasters: The worst offenders

By Emma Harris
A PACKED lunch left at a bus stop, the non-arrival of a taxi and a blocked drive – all reasons people have dialled 999 in Blackpool.
It might sound like a joke, but these were all REAL calls made to Black-pool police's emergency number in the past year.

Examples of genuine inappropriate 999 calls to Blackpool Police:

* "I've left my packed lunch on the bench by the bus stop – can you collect it... I'm half-way to Preston."

* CALLER: "I have 20 black bags that need moving. OPERATOR: "What do you want the police to do?" CALLER: "Help me move them!"

* "The alarm is going off at my house…I don't know how to turn it off."

* CALLER: "Someone has blocked my drive and I need to get out to get to the theatre." OPERATOR: "For an operation?" CALLER: "No, to watch a musical!"

* "The bus station is closed, I need to get to Preston and there are no timetables. Can you tell me the time of the next bus?"

* "I've rung for a taxi and it hasn't arrived yet."

* "Can you tell me why the police helicopter's flying around?"

* "I'm travelling from Coventry and have lost the M55. I'm near Lancaster – can you give me directions?"

And while the calls might be amusing, the potential consequences are no laughing matter.

Officers working in Blackpool's busy communications room want to remind members of the public to only use 999 when the situation is a genuine emergency.

Insp Tim Newton, from Blackpool Police, said he wanted to highlight the fact inappropriate calls were wasting police time and could put others at risk.

He said: "A call requiring an emergency police response – that is where we attend within 15
minutes – is one where there is, or is likely, to be danger to life, immediate threat of violence, serious injury to a person or serious damage to property.

"We also treat some criminal conduct as an emergency when the crime is likely to be serious or in progress, if an offender has been detained at the scene or poses a risk to other people and in road collisions, if there is serious injury or when the road is blocked and the traffic build-up is dangerous.

"The message is do not use 999 unless the matter is serious and falls into one of those categories. If you do so, you may cause a delay that could be life-threatening. Inappropriate 999 calls are a waste of time and resources and could put other people at risk."

Last year, some 54,000 calls were made to Blackpool police using 999, and officers warn diverting resources for trivial matters means serious incidents cannot be dealt with.