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27 October 2011, 06:00
Hertfordshire Police is releasing a ‘spooky’ bogus 999 call this Halloween to remind people not to misuse the emergency service at this busy time of year.
Halloween is a very busy night for the force, making it essential telephone lines are kept clear for genuine calls, therefore making sure police resources can be used most effectively. Last year on Halloween, there were over 200 more calls on the day compared to an average day in the Constabulary.
The force is hoping that releasing the call, made earlier this month, will serve as a timely reminder before Halloween that making a bogus call can stop important 999 calls from getting through. Worse still, it can divert valuable police resources away from handling genuine emergencies.
The call, made at just after 8pm, was from a man reporting there was a mysterious object flying above his house with lights blazing. He subsequently phoned back to say he had been mistaken and the mysterious object was in fact the moon.
In July this year the Constabulary launched a new non-emergency number 101, which aims to make it easier and, in most cases, cheaper to contact police where there is no crime in progress or immediate threat to life or property.
Jason Baxter, Assistant Manager at the Force Communications Room, said: “While the caller here may not have been phoning out of malice, his phone call still tied up valuable police resources and time for something which was not an emergency.
“It also illustrates the kind of bogus call we might receive to 999, whether as a hoax or an inappropriate call.
“I would like to encourage people before they phone 999 to ask themselves – is this really a police matter?
“And is this really an emergency call – an immediate threat to life or property?”
“If this is not a police matter, please do not call us. If it is not a genuine emergency call, please ring us on our non-emergency number 101. Otherwise, you could potentially put others with genuine police or emergency calls at risk or prevent them from getting through.”
He added: “Also, if you are thinking it would be funny to play a ‘trick’ this Halloween and make a hoax call, be very careful! You could find the ‘trick’ is on you when we prosecute you for making a hoax call.”
Fact file on making hoax calls:
• The maximum penalty for hoax call offences is up to six months imprisonment and a fine of £5,000. If it involves specifically wasting police time this can be up to seven years behind bars.
• All phone calls are recorded and can be used as evidence. Police have the power to disconnect mobiles from which hoax calls are made.
• Using specialist software, police are also able to trace where calls are made from, and so locate any hoax callers and obtain their telephone numbers.
• People should only dial 999 in an emergency. An emergency is when there is a risk of injury to someone or a risk of serious damage to property, you suspect a crime is in progress or there is a serious incident which needs immediate police attendance.
• If there is no emergency, use the non-emergency number 101 or contact your neighbourhood team (numbers are available on the Hertfordshire Constabulary website). The average waiting time for callers on this number are 13 seconds, and last week the average wait time was nine seconds.