independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Police tweeting 999 time-wasters

West Midlands Police is using Twitter to publicise time-wasting calls to the 999 emergency number

A police force is staging a "tweetathon" to highlight time-wasting 999 calls, including one from a man who wanted officers to frighten his sister.

West Midlands Police hope the day-long social media initiative will reduce the number of inappropriate calls to its 999 system, which prevent operators from dealing with genuine emergencies.

As part of the campaign, the force tweeted links to recordings of previous calls, including one from a man claiming to have found a hair in his food at a fast-food restaurant.

Another caller sought help from emergency operators after forgetting her Facebook password, while a man dialled 999 to ask how to dial the 101 non-emergency number.

Among the calls were several from babies or children playing with mobile phones, and another which prompted police to tweet: "999 call just received from a male who wanted the police to come out to frighten his sister. What a waste of police time."

Chief Inspector Sally Holmes, from the force contact department at West Midlands Police, described some of the calls received by 999 operators as ridiculous.

She said: "We regularly receive calls on the 9s about lost property, people asking for directions and from people who have been denied entry to a nightclub.

"Its astonishing listening to them but they hide a serious truth. Each call often takes minutes to deal with as staff have to clarify the situation - it might not sound like much but, if someone is trying to get through to report a genuine life or death emergency, then a minute is a very long time to wait. I cannot stress enough that the 999 number is for emergencies only."

A further call received during the "tweetathon" was from a caller requesting assistance to obtain a refund from an expensive car wash.

A separate "emergency" call was made by a member of public reporting a spiritual healer as a fraud.

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