Posted: Thu 26th Aug 2021

North Wales Police: “Ridiculous” 999 calls putting lives at risk

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Aug 26th, 2021

An aspiring police officer rang 999 to check on the progress of his application to join North Wales Police, it’s been revealed.

The region’s police and crime commissioner, Andy Dunbobbin, heard it was one of a string of “ridiculous” emergency calls dealt with by the force’s control room.

It was said, Mr Dunbobbin, a “serious and flagrant” waste of police time that diverted resources away from real emergencies, potentially putting lives at risk.

On another occasion a women dialled 999 to ask for police assistance to move her sofa which had become jammed in her hallway after she tried to shift it from her lounge to another room.

Another example came when a woman stood outside the police station in Rhyl called the emergency line asking for a lift home after she had failed to book a taxi.

According to Mr Dunbobbin, staff at the control room in St Asaph are incredibly busy and don’t have time to deal with ludicrous calls.

The centre already handles an average of 80,000 emergency 999 calls a year and on average they’re answered in just 3.1 seconds.

On top of that they deal with 250,000 non-emergency calls, 18,000 webchats and nearly 60,000 emails which all translates into an average of more than 1,100 contacts every day.

The force is now urging people to report non-urgent matters to them via the website so that the 999 line can be kept free for emergencies.

Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales Andy Dunbobbin talks with Linda Brooks-Roberts

Control room manager Paul Shea said: “Unfortunately, we still get too many silly calls like the one from the lady who got the couch stuck in the hall.

“Another call that sticks in the memory was the one from the lady with the spider on the bed. She was scared and wanted a police officer to come to move the spider.

“They’re just not policing matters and it takes valuable resources from people who are in real trouble.

“The flip side of that is that there are other people who should have phoned 999 who called the non-emergency line 101 instead because they didn’t want to bother us.

“I would like to stress that people should always ring 999 if they are suffering a proper emergency.”

Mr Dunbobbin has just signed a £5.8 million cheque to buy a new system for the control room that’s an upgrade of the force’s current command and control technology.

It will be introduced in phases and has been designed to dovetail with the new Emergency Services Network (ESN) that’s due to rolled out in the UK.

Mr Dunbobbin said: “Even with the new system, we will have not have the time to deal with the really silly, time-wasting calls which divert precious police resources and potentially put lives at risk.

“Making prank calls or phoning 999 inappropriately is inexcusable and is not fair.  It’s as simple as that.

“Clearly though, if somebody is in the middle of a proper emergency they should always ring 999.”

It was a message echoed by Chief Inspector Mark Williams, the Senior Force Incident Manager.

He said: “The control room is the front door to policing for most people. Members of the public who need to contact the police invariably come through this room in one form or another.

“Nuisance calls are annoying but there are occasions when people make genuine mistakes.

“What might be an emergency for some people might not be for somebody else and I would say use us if you need to, but we do get some really ridiculous calls.

“There was absolutely no excuse for a prospective police officer to call the emergency number to check on his job application. He clearly was not cut out for the job.

“But time is of the essence when there is a real emergency. We aim to answer 999 calls within 10 second so doing it in under four seconds is pretty impressive.

“Clearly these are life threatening emergencies most of the time so it’s absolutely essential that we get the right person on the end of the phone very quickly so we can start getting officers going to the locations if they’re needed.”

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