Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/01/999_timewasters/

Hamster-in-rain emergency prompts 999 call

Weary South Wales cops finger phone timewasters

By Lester Haines

Posted in Bootnotes, 1st February 2008 14:15 GMT

South Wales police force has published a list of top time-wasting 999 calls during the past year in an attempt to convince people not to pick up the phone unless it's really necessary.

According to icWales, the highlight of 2007 came when one woman demanded officers come and cuff her boyfriend because he'd put her hamster out in the rain. Another caller explained: “My husband has the TV remote and won’t let me watch EastEnders.”

The list continues with the anxious citizen who admitted: “I don’t have £1 for a supermarket trolley”, and one flustered bookworm who offered: “A friend has my library card, can you come and arrest her?”

Our fave, though, is the bloke who enquired: “Can the police come round and take my mother-in-law away? She has been here for 18 days.”

The South Wales cops said one in ten emergency calls they receive are either "inappropriate or a deliberate misuse of the 999 system", and they now plan to use psychology to stem the tide.

Traditionally, the 999 operators have greeted callers with a cheery “South Wales Police, how can I help?” They will in future declare “South Wales Police, what is your emergency?”, which will apparently prompt the person on the other end of the line to ponder whether or not their situation really is a matter of life or death.

This subtle but significant change in wording has reportedly proved successful in New York and San Diego, and Superintendent Kevin O’Neill, divisional commander for communication at South Wales Police, explained: “For many years we have been trying to educate the public on what is or isn’t a 999 call, but one in ten 999 calls made to South Wales Police are still inappropriate or a deliberate misuse of the system.

“Now we are going a step further in our campaign to reduce the number of non-urgent calls to 999 by making this simple but hopefully effective way in which our controllers answer calls."

O'Neill concluded with the obligatory plea: “Calling 999 with an unnecessary non-emergency call could block a genuine call for vital seconds and put lives at risk. We would ask people to work with us so our operators are free to help callers who do need urgent help.” ®