By Matt Gaw
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
THOUSANDS of hoax 999 calls are causing a “substantial drain” on Suffolk police resources and diverting emergency services from where they are needed most, it can be revealed.
New figures show the constabulary has received a total of 7,618 emergency calls over nearly five years at what police said was a “significant cost” to the county’s taxpayers.
Transcripts of calls made during 2011 and part of 2012, released to the East Anglian Daily Times under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that although some calls by people with mental health problems or delusion disorders, scores more are made as jokes or after drinking.
Calls have included everything from an undetected bomb hoax and unfounded assualt claims to drunken demands for taxis and even a woman worried about her noisy cat,
Chief Superintendent David Skevington, County Police Commander in Suffolk, said: “Hoax calls are a severe misuse of the system and put people who are in need of urgent assistance from the emergency services at risk. They tie up 999 lines and divert the emergency services away from people who may be in life-threatening situations.”
He added: “They cause a substantial drain on the resources of the emergency services, and cost a significant amount of money, through the time taken to answer the call, and any emergency services that are deployed.”
The force said it was impossible to put an exact figure on the cost of calls, due to the different response required for each incident.
Ch Supt Skevington said: “The way in which hoax calls are dealt with therefore differs greatly depending on the individual circumstances of the caller.
“If the caller is suffering with issues that affect their mental health, work is carried out with their families and partner agencies to provide support where necessary.”
But he added: “Deliberate hoax calls are taken very seriously and the Constabulary will seek to charge individuals for relevant offences where necessary. Where individuals are found guilty of offences relating to hoax calling, and successfully prosecuted, they may face heavy fines, imprisonment and a criminal record.”
From 2008 to September this year there have been 24 reported crimes in relation to undetected bomb hoaxes, malicious communications and use of public communications network to send indecent/obscene/threatening/false messages.
Fourteen of the calls resulted in further action, from court summons to community resolutions.
Over the same period, 67 of the calls were treated as ‘Wasting Police time’ offences.
The figures show that during that same period the highest number of hoax calls was in 2009, when there was 2091 calls - the equivalent to nearly six a day.
A police spokesman said: “999 should be used to report a crime that is in progress or if someone is in immediate danger. To report any other crimes that are not an emergency, 101 should be used.”