Hoax 999 calls to police down 25% in Hertfordshire

PUBLISHED: 13:04 06 February 2011

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HOAX 999 calls made to police have dropped by a quarter since a concerted campaign was launched to tackle the problem.

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.

Figures released this week revealed 2,910 hoax calls were received last year by staff manning the emergency number at Hertfordshire Constabulary’s control room.

This compares to 3,827 in 2009 – a fall of 24 per cent.

In that time, 33 people have been arrested – with more than half of them charged.

The maximum penalty hoax callers face is six months in jail and a £5,000 fine.

If the offence involves specifically wasting police time, the caller could be sentenced to seven years behind bars.

The campaign carries the slogan “Only a fool would make a hoax 999 call” and makes use of video sharing website YouTube to post recordings of fraudulent emergency calls.

Jason Baxter, assistant manager at the force communication room, said: “I am thrilled to see this drop in hoax calls, which means we can divert more resources to genuine emergencies and more call-takers are free to assist genuine callers.

“This decrease is testament to the fact our campaign is obviously hitting home, greatly assisted by some really strong coverage in the media – both local and national.

“I would like to thank the media and the public for their support during this campaign.

“However, there are still a number of individuals who think it is funny or cool to waste our valuable resources in this way, so we will continue to run this campaign to bring that figure down still further.

“We will also continue to prosecute anyone found making a hoax call of this kind and will publicise their selfish and foolish actions.”

As part of the campaign, police released a recording of a 999 call made on Boxing Day last year, where the caller wished control staff a “Merry Christmas”.

As previously reported in the Welwyn Hatfield Times, the clip became a YouTube phenomenon with more than 270,000 views.


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