In July this year, the Control Room at North Yorkshire Police received the highest number of 999 calls in its long history, topping 10,000 and averaging more than 300 per day.
On top of that, the Control Room handles around 18,000 calls each month on the police non-emergency 101 number, but analysis shows a significant proportion of these calls should not have been made on either number. These ‘unnecessary calls’ put undue pressure on Communications Officers and risk action being delayed in genuine cases.
If a crime or emergency is ongoing and there is danger to life, you should always call 999, while the 101 number is there to report a crime which has already happened.
North Yorkshire Police Control Room Manager, Jane Larkin, said: “Unnecessary 999 calls significantly impact on our ability to deal with genuine emergencies so I’d really ask the public to think twice before picking up the phone and dialling. It can be difficult to know which number is the most appropriate to call or which is the most appropriate agency to deal with your enquiry, so we want to help people understand when to call or when to seek advice elsewhere.”
With similar situations replicated across the UK, the North Yorkshire Force has published the following list of the top 10 questions its Control Room officers are routinely asked, but which should be directed elsewhere:
- Can you give me directions to… “It might seem ridiculous but our Communications Officers genuinely do receive calls from members of the public asking for directions to get to a particular place and sometimes even advice on where to park when they get there!”
- I’ve missed the last train home; can someone give me a lift? “We find that sometimes people will call the police as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for any kind of query, no matter how bizarre or unnecessary. Whilst we want to help wherever we can, we don’t run a taxi service and we are not here to assist in making travel arrangements.”
- Someone keeps letting their dog foul the street outside my house, can you make them stop? “Dog fouling is an offence, but it is something which will be dealt with by your local council. In some cases, PSCO’s can deal with dog fouling, but we would always advise you to call the council in the first instance. If possible, it is helpful to provide the date, time and any details of the dog owner.”
- There’s a stray dog in our local park, please can you come and collect it? “Stray dogs are not a police responsibility so if you find one, you should call your local council and ask for the dog warden. Dog wardens are responsible for picking up stray dogs found in public places.”
- My next door neighbour keeps playing loud music and it stops me sleeping. Can you visit and tell them to stop? “Noise complaints should always be reported to the Environmental Health department of your local council. In some extreme cases, at particularly unsociable times of day, the police may be able to visit a property and ask them to reduce the noise, but we have no powers of prosecution for noise offences.”
- I keep getting loads of unsolicited junk emails. Can you get people to stop sending them to me? “Junk emails are not a police responsibility so you could try contacting your internet service provider (ISP) for help reducing the amount of junk emails you receive.”
- Someone is fly-tipping in my local area. Can I report this to you? “Fly-tipping should always be reported to your local council in the first instance.”
- What day will my recycling be collected? “Although we are fully supportive of local recycling schemes, we cannot assist you with finding out which days your bins will be collected. Your local council is the best place to locate this information.”
- I’ve paid a builder to do some work on my house but he’s not completed it and now he’s disappeared. Can you help me get my money back? “Rogue traders and problems with goods and services that you have paid for should not be reported to the police. Instead you should call Citizen’s Advice and ask to be put through to Trading Standards who will be able to help you.”
- I don’t want to get stuck in the traffic from the races. Can you let me know what time the roads will be busiest? “While we may provide details of road closures or traffic problems through our social media channels and website, you should not call the police for travel updates or advice on avoiding busy roads. We work hard to keep our roads safe, but we are not here to advise on journey planning.”