999 'is not directory inquiries'
Police have urged members of the public only to call 999 in a life and death emergency after revealing an array of inappropriate calls.
Leicestershire Police made the plea after it emerged one man had made more than 600 inappropriate calls in just six months.
The force said from April 2009 to March this year, around a third of its 999 calls related to non-emergencies including a woman stuck in toilets in McDonalds, a man who could not find his way out of Leicester Royal Infirmary, a man asking a police officer to change his light bulb and a man who wanted police to remove a cat from outside his home as he was scared of cats.
Inspector Claire Morgan, from Leicestershire Constabulary's contact management centre, said: "The 999 number is not a directory inquiries number, it is for serious or life and death emergencies only. If you call 999 other than in an emergency, you may prevent another caller with a real emergency from receiving urgent police assistance.
"In emergencies every second counts and the time that an operator spends dealing with a hoax or misguided call could literally mean the difference between life and death. Please think before dialling 999. Ask yourself if your call is a genuine emergency? Is a crime or serious incident taking place or is anyone in immediate danger?"
The force said from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010 it received 614,097 non-emergency calls and 126,980 emergency 999 calls.
It is thought around a third of these 999 calls related to non-emergencies, a spokeswoman said.
She said the warning came after a 61-year-old man was given a 12-month conditional discharge for making 607 inappropriate or hoax calls to the force between January 28 and June 15 this year.
Investigating officer Pc Steve Morley said: "Leicestershire Constabulary's contact management centre is extremely busy, taking on average around 1,682 non-emergency calls and 348 '999' calls every day.
"At his worst, this defendant made up to 150 calls in one day to the police, which was a huge drain on resources. Clearly we could not allow this situation to continue, although prosecution was very much the last resort in this instance."