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Nuisance and abusive callers are wasting valuable time

By Donna Deeney

Published 17/11/2016

Sergeant Sam Young
Sergeant Sam Young

Valuable police time is being wasted dealing with nuisance calls - including people wanting a lift home.

Staff at the three police call centres in Northern Ireland dealt with almost 500,000 calls to either the 999 or 101 numbers in the last year.

However, many were non-emergencies, including one who reported a damaged car wing mirror.

Operators dealt with almost 30,000 calls at the Londonderry centre at Maydown, which handles calls from the area covered from Derry and Strabane Council to Antrim and Newtownabbey.

Staff are trained to quickly assess the necessary response and ask pertinent questions that will be used as evidence in cases where a crime is reported.

Saving lives has become almost a daily task.

Call handlers frequently coax vulnerable people away from taking their own life or help keep a victim of domestic violence safe while help is sent.

Sergeant Sam Young, supervisor at the Maydown centre, said staff get very frustrated when they know that the person on the other end of the line is not someone in genuine need.

Sgt Young explained: "All calls come through our board and then we assess and prioritise the call.

"If it is an Article Two, which is a Right to Life, it's an immediate response, but for calls about a broken window or a damaged wing mirror it will be longer -which some callers have used the 999 line for.

"People use the system, they will say they are vulnerable even though they are not, but they have learnt the key words that they know we will always respond to when all they are looking for is a lift home.

"We do get a lot of calls from people with mental health issues, people who are genuinely vulnerable, but there are others who are just nuisances.

"One such example was a man who made over 1,200 abusive calls over a three-month period.

"He didn't have any mental health issues so we prosecuted him."

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