Concern at 'serial 999ers' as PSNI called over missing rubbish
PSNI officers are becoming increasingly frustrated over the number of "ridiculous" 999 calls made by members of the public.
In one of the more bizarre cases, officers were tasked to investigate a report that a bag of rubbish had been stolen from outside a house.
"When police asked the man what he wanted done with the bag of rubbish if they found it, he told them to take it to the dump," a policeman told the Belfast Telegraph.
On another occasion, a teenager called 999 to complain that her brother wouldn't get off the Xbox and do the dishes. "She wanted police to go to the house, take away the Xbox and make her brother do the dishes," an officer said. "It was treated as a domestic incident and police were dispatched. You can't be too careful."
Other calls to 999 included a woman who did not have a TV licence asking police to get rid of the TV licence man from outside her home, someone asking for directions to the nearest 24 hour petrol station and several complaints about burst pipes.
"So many of the calls we get are absolutely ridiculous," a detective said. "It can be very frustrating when people abuse the system.
"How can someone honestly think that a stolen bag of rubbish is an emergency and a good use of police time?
"I did laugh when I heard about the woman phoning about the TV licence man. She wanted police to remove him from her door. Nobody was dispatched to that callout."
Another officer said there was huge concern about "serial 999ers". "There are members of the public who regularly call 999," they said. "They are usually drunk and threatening to harm themselves, but most of the time they just want to talk to someone. It is quite sad really. It does take up police time but we have a duty to make sure they don't come to any harm.
"One 999 call that I found particularly sad was from a mum whose 15 and 16-year-old boys began fighting over a PlayStation and she was afraid to separate them.
"I've also responded to calls where people are seeing or hearing things that aren't there.
"False 999 calls are always dealt with as real until proven that they are not. To do otherwise would show very poor skills indeed."
Police define an emergency as when a crime is in progress, someone suspected of a crime is nearby, when there is danger to life or when violence is being used or threatened.
Last year, the PSNI introduced the 101 telephone number to reduce the volume of unnecessary calls to the 999 service.
Before the launch of the 101 number, only 5% of all calls fielded by the police related to emergency issues, and half of them did not require any police response at all.
Last year, police received 71,146 999 calls, and they attended the scene of 12,811 of them.