Essex: Police Warn Abusing 999 Risks Lives

31 January 2012, 13:53 | Updated: 31 January 2012, 13:56

Between April 2010 and March 2011, Essex Police say they received 2441 nuisance calls and 733 hoax calls.

But it was over December 2011 and January 2012, that emergency call handlers received calls that not only wasted police time but could have delayed police responding to a genuine emergency.

On Christmas Day a man called 999 to report a fault with his battery operated heated gloves and three days later a call handler answered an emergency call from a man who wanted to know if his bank in Basildon was open.

Earlier in December a woman called 999 to ask if a police officer could call at her house to remove a spider because she was scared of it.

Other examples of time wasting 999 calls received recently include a drunk man asking police to collect a pizza from a restaurant on his behalf as he had had too much to drink to drive and another intoxicated man phoning to report that he had seen a chef in a takeaway restaurant drop a burger on the floor before serving it to someone.

FIR supervisor Joanna Traynor said: "People ring asking for directions, they ring 999 because they’ve run out of credit on their mobile phone and want a lift home and sometimes they ring 999 because their electricity has failed."

Chief Insp Alan Gooden from the Force Information Room said: "Essex Police deals with around 25,000 emergency 999 calls a month so it’s vital our resources are reserved for people who really do need urgent help.

"The 999 system is something that must not be abused. We have a finite number of resources and we need people to be responsible."

Essex Police will continue to take strong action against persistent nuisance callers and those that repeatedly abuse the 999 service.

Knowingly making a hoax call to 999 is a criminal offence and can result in a heavy fine and more seriously a criminal record and prison sentence.

Essex Police defines an emergency situation as one where there is a crime or serious incident in progress, a serious risk of injury or a risk of serious damage to property.

The say in a genuine emergency always dial 999. However if you don't need immediate help or just require advice or information 101 is the most appropriate number to call.