Tuesday 6 December 2016

Police braced for 999 time wasters

Published 24/12/2010 | 12:36

The Metropolitan Police's emergency response team is set to handle a seasonal flurry of inappropriate 999 calls
The Metropolitan Police's emergency response team is set to handle a seasonal flurry of inappropriate 999 calls

Police 999 call handlers have been braced for a seasonal flurry of time wasters asking them to check on the health of the Queen.

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Inquiries about the head of state are among the most common inappropriate calls endured by operators at the Metropolitan Police on Christmas Day.

Staff said one man called at 5am last year to report the Queen was in distress and police should attend Buckingham Palace "immediately".

Others called to check on the Pope while one man confessed he had been a "naughty boy" before asking for the operator to blow him a kiss.

One senior officer said the dubious calls highlight how important it is for people to only dial 999 in an emergency. Chief Superintendent BJ Harrington, who runs the Met's central communications command, said this is particularly true on Christmas Day.

He said: "At Christmas we scale back what we do. It is essentially as efficient as it can be, but we do not have the normal resilience we have on a normal day. People must only use 999 in a genuine emergency. Is someone in danger? Is a crime happening? Is someone who has committed a crime nearby?

"If it is not an emergency call 0300 123 1212, that allows us to help those who genuinely need help.

"The problem comes when that person holds up a 999 line. If there is a road traffic accident, particularly on the M25, we get lots of calls about the same incident. That could mean 199 people answering telephones, prioritising and tagging calls, and the 200th is on an inappropriate call.

"If as a result someone else has to wait 15, 20, 30 seconds then that could be the difference between life and death."

On Christmas Day last year, the Met received 3,699 emergency calls, more than two calls every minute. The daily average is 5,693.Police said 416 calls were complaints of violence, including fights with weapons and threats.

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