Hertfordshire police’s appeal to stop Halloween hoax calls

PUBLISHED: 16:17 26 October 2011 | UPDATED: 16:26 26 October 2011




A UFO spotted in the sky, which later discovered to be the moon, was one of the hoax calls made to Hertfordshire police this month.

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). Average waiting times for callers on this number are 13 seconds, and last week the average wait time was nine seconds.

The force is hoping that releasing the call will serve as a timely reminder before Halloween that making a bogus call can stop important 999 calls from getting through.

Last year on Halloween there were 1,435 non-emergency calls and 999 calls made to the constabulary, compared to the 1,204 on a normal day (a 19 per cent increase).

It is calls such as the UFO spot that the force wants to stop.

Made at just after 8pm, a man reported 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.

A clip of the call can be heard by clicking on the video (above).

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.”

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