Special feature on 999 calls - Do these trivial incidents really warrant a 999 call

People drunk, after a party.
People drunk, after a party.

Would you call 999 to report a missing hamster, a child not eating his breakfast or a lost toy?

No, of course not. But some people in Doncaster would. Yes, really.

Those are just some of the examples of time-wasting calls made by Doncaster residents to South Yorkshire Police in the past year.

And next time a shop won’t change unwanted goods or you need a taxi home after a heavy night on the town - remember, DON’T dial 999.

The police are becoming increasingly frustrated by people making daft emergency calls and point out both the 999 and more recent 101 numbers are not there as advice lines.

Up to a third of all calls they receive should never have been made in the first place, they say.

Superintendent Adrian Moran, the South Yorkshire Police officer in charge of communications, said: “These might sound amusing but there is a serious point to this.

“While we are distracted with answering these calls we are not attending to other more important calls from the public which potentially could put lives at risk and reduce the service we provide and our response to incidents.

“If it is clearly not a police matter do not use us as a directory enquiry or advice service.”

Supt Moran said South Yorkshire Police “will and regularly do prosecute callers who repeatedly abuse the 999 system.”

The simple message is: “You should only call 999 in an emergency – when a crime is in progress, a suspect is nearby or life is in danger. For all other matters use the non emergency number 101.”

101 replaced the police’s previous non-emergency number. It did not change the way South Yorkshire Police respond to non-emergency calls but made it easier for the public to contact them with an easy to remember number.

Everyone knows to call 999 in an emergency but most people would not remember their local police non-emergency number. Wherever you are in South Yorkshire, 101 will provide an easy-to-remember number available 24 hours a day for all non emergency calls

One of the advantages of 101 is that if you are travelling through another county or city and want to contact the police, you only have to remember one number - before there were 43 separate numbers.

Although this is a national number calls to 101 will be answered by specially trained staff within the Communications Centre in South Yorkshire – residents will not find themselves speaking to someone in another part of the country.

Added Supt Moran: “Currently about a third of all 999 calls received by South Yorkshire Police are not genuine emergencies.

“By having a more easily remembered number we are confident this mis-use will decrease and allow us to respond more effectively to emergencies.

Non-emergency calls are still important and require our attention but clearly emergency calls take priority.”

The 101 number should be used for:

* Simply everything that isn’t an emergency

* Reporting crimes

* Antisocial behaviour

* Minor road traffic collisions

* Contacting your local SNT

Calls to 101 will cost a flat rate of 15p regardless of whether you are calling from a landline or a mobile phone and how long your call is.

The 15p flat-rate fee has been introduced by the Home Office to all police forces to ensure that the service remains financially sustainable.

Misusing the emergency services - The nuttiest 999 calls...

This is just a selection of calls made by Doncaster people to the 999 and 101 number, as logged by the call handlers.

They show how often people ring for help on issues which could never be described as police matters.

* A woman rang 999 for help because her daughter’s hamster had escaped from its cage and was stuck under the floorboards.

* Another woman rang because her son had been playing with his new birthday present, a radio-controlled helicopter, which had crashed on the roof of a shop nearby and they needed help retrieving it.

* A call from someone because a shop would not exchange a pair of shoes.

* A parent asking for the police to come and reprimand her son because he wouldn’t east his breakfast.

* Drunken people on nights out asking for taxis

* Enquiries about household insurance ‘because the police should know a good one’.

Among the ridiculous pleas for police help from other parts of South Yorkshire were:

* A caller disliked by his neighbours because he used to jump up and down on his trampoline in a dress.

* A person who complained that the neighbours next door were making love very loudly with the windows open and it had been ‘going on for some time’.

* A woman whose 12-year-old daughter fell into a stream and it ruined her trainers and her friends laughed at her.

* Caller reported youths singing carols but ‘they can’t sing’ and are ‘just trying to get money’.

* A woman whose daughter’s friend, aged three, has just ‘pooed’ in the playhouse and is old enough ‘to know better’.

* Confused caller says she can’t get the right film on her Sky TV subscription.

20,000 999 and 70,000 non-emergency calls per-month

South Yorkshire Police take around 20,000 999 and 70,000 non-emergency calls each month.

The average time to answer 999 is around nine seconds.

The average time to answer non-emergency is 20 seconds

There are busy times when people are waiting longer, this is inevitable, such as when there is a crash on the motorway when lots of people ring at the same time.

SYP monitor call and incident performance on a daily basis and can trace and investigate all calls received.