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Police in plea over 999 phone lines; NON-EMERGENCY CALLS JAMMING SWITCHBOARDS.

Byline: SAMANTHA CLARKE

POLICE in Warwickshire say callers are jamming their 999 switchboards with non-emergency requests.

And they have also issued a plea for younger callers across the county to stop plaguing them with hoax calls.

Staff in the communications centre say the force receives anywhere up to a thousand 999 calls every day.

Of those, 30 to 40 will be from hoaxers, about 30 are non-emergency, and they receive up to 40 where the caller remains silent.

Staff say they aim to answer 94 per cent of all 999 calls within 15 seconds but the number of non-emergency calls coming through to the switchboard is using up valuable time - and could even be putting lives at risk.

They say genuine emergency calls can be about robberies in progress, thefts, burglaries, road traffic collisions and violent crimes.

But they say some of their resources are being drained by people using the emergency number without good reason and by pranksters.

Communications centre manager Insp John William said: "Most of the time people don't realise that they should only dial 999 to report an ongoing incident, or if they are in immediate danger.

"Dialling 999 for non-urgent incidents such as a lost dog or an illegally- parked vehicle could slow down our response time to a serious incident.

"These non-urgent calls should be made to the local police station."

Mr Williams said the number of hoax calls made to Warwickshire Police increased during the school holidays.

Many callers remain silent, and a number of calls come in from people whose mobile phones are stored in their pockets or handbags.

Mr Williams said police have the power to permanently de-activate mobile phones whose owners are responsible for 999 calls.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Apr 14, 2004
Words:286
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