Woman called 999 to report theft of snowman

Police have issued a warning about the improper use of the emergency number. Picture: Julie Bull
Police have issued a warning about the improper use of the emergency number. Picture: Julie Bull
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POLICE have released details of bizarre 999 calls as they launched a new campaign urging Scots to use the emergency number “properly”.

A woman dialling 999 after the theft of a snowman and a man reporting a “dirty look” from a neighbour are among the examples used by the police to highlight the problem.

Our message is simple – if it’s an emergency, call 999. In a non-emergency situation, dial 101.

Roddy Newbigging

There are about 2.8 million calls in Scotland made to the non-emergency 101 number and just under half a million emergency calls placed to 999 every year.

Other calls received by the police include a woman dialling 101 to report a large spider in her house and asking for help because she could not sleep.

A man also called police asking for advice on his under-inflated tyres, while a woman asked officers to check her height.

Police have emphasised that while these calls may appear to be amusing, they divert resources away from people who require urgent assistance.

Chief Superintendent Roddy Newbigging, of the Contact Command and Control Division, said: “Our campaign is a timely reminder to people to use 101 and 999 properly. Call handlers deal with a call every ten seconds. They are highly trained, skilled and knowledgeable and are there to help.

“Most people contact the police appropriately but there are a small percentage who do not – this abuse of 101 and 999 could cost lives.

“Our message is simple – if it’s an emergency, call 999. In a non-emergency situation, dial 101.”

But former policeman ­Cameron Rose, now Conservative group leader at the city council, stressed that the force must also work to improve its call handling.

He said: “A campaign to discourage wasteful calls is all well and good, but police call centres continue in crisis and have work to do to get their own house in order.

“Too many calls go unanswered and result in people with valuable information to give just giving up. It would be interesting to know whether the 2.8 million 101 calls include dropped calls of those who have given up. Police Scotland should streamline their recorded messages which take up far too much time.

“Whilst most call handlers are brilliant, there are just too many who are either not sharp and flexible enough with callers or lack empathy. And the call centre system has still to perfect the efficient routing of calls from the public to officers at different locations or on changing shifts.

“It all adds up to an ongoing crisis which has solutions. Those solutions will involves proper systems analysis, smart management and good technology.”

Members of the public can use the Police Scotland website to report issues including domestic assault, hate crime, child abuse, wildlife crime and lost property. They can also approach an officer on duty or head to a police station front counter.

The 101 number is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

john.connell@jpress.co.uk