Use 999 Wisely - Many Don't

One man called the emergency services claiming to be David Cameron


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Ealing was one of the busiest boroughs for 999 calls last year on Christmas Day.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day are generally the quietest two days of the year as people are enjoying the festive celebrations with loved ones at home.

However last year on that day alone the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) received 3,648 emergency calls (throughout London), compared with the daily average of 5,585 in 2010.

The busiest hours were between 21:00 and 03:00hrs and the busiest boroughs were Newham, Haringey, Ealing, Croydon, Brent and Barnet.

Calls on Christmas Day 2010 included 11 reports of sexual offences, 513 coded under violence against a person, and 123 calls reporting domestic incidents, ranging from arguments between partners and families and more serious physical violence.

Police are urging the public not to call 999 unless it is an emergency and have revealed examples of some of the nuisance calls received during last year's festive period.

Nuisance calls included:

- At 09:00hrs a caller stated "I love you with all my heart darling" before clearing the line.

- At 14:23hrs a male caller claimed he was David Cameron and that he lived at 10 Downing Street.

- At 20:00hrs a male wanted to speak to the head of the Egyptian order.

- At 23:34hrs a woman called to say there was someone in her house and that she knew this because she had invented an x-ray machine and could see him.

While abandoned calls are not classified as nuisance calls, they take up operators time as the majority of them have to be called back to ensure that emergency services are not required.

Chief Superintendent Jim Read, from the MPS Central Communications Command, said:

"Deliberate misuse of the 999 emergency system presents a very real risk our ability to effectively respond to genuine emergencies. It will be business as usual for our public call handling centres over the Christmas period and I would like to take this opportunity to remind the public that if it is not an emergency then please dial 101, our single-non emergency number."

Generally less than a quarter of 999 calls require an emergency response. In non-emergencies the public is advised to call the MPS single non-emergency number, 101, if they need to contact police.

The 101 number was launched earlier this year as part of a national programme to improve access and to give the public one easy way to contact police if they do not need an urgent response. For example, the
public should call 101 to report less urgent crime or disorder, or to contact the police with a general police related enquiry such as:

- if your car has been stolen;
- if your property has been damaged;
- where you suspect drug use or dealing;
- if you want to report a minor traffic collision;
- if you want to give the police information about crime in your area.

In London the new number is just one of the ways the MPS is modernising
and improving our services while making them more accessible to the
public. As well as calling us on 101 or 999, the public can use our
online services to get information or report crime; join virtual
neighbourhood ward panels to oversee and influence local policing; visit
a police station or front counter 24/7; or approach an officer in the

As with 999, calls to 101 in London will be handled 24 hours a day, seven days a week by specially trained officers and staff at the MPS's Central Communications Command who will help deal with enquiries. For people who speak no or little English they can also dial 101 where their call will be connected with an interpreter.

Callers who are deaf, deafened or have a hearing or speech impairment can use a textphone to
call: 18001 101; or in an emergency it's 18000.

According to official MPS figures, in April 2011 there were 161,008 recorded 999 calls, 32,941 (20%) of which were graded as an immediate response required i.e. a genuine emergency. This means the remaining 80% would be more appropriate for 101.

23rd December 2011


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