Belfast Telegraph

1,400 police 999 calls...from 10 Northern Ireland addresses

By Victoria Leonard

Just 10 Northern Ireland addresses made 1,448 emergency calls to police last year - with one accounting for 405 of them.

The calls resulted in officers attending the properties on a total of 684 occasions, and 30 arrests were made.

The figures, obtained through Freedom of Information legislation, show the top 10 addresses which made emergency calls to police between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017.

Most came from health and social care institutions containing vulnerable people, but some related to "persistent callers".

In total, 175,065 emergency calls were made to the PSNI over the period.

999 calls to police: Key statistics

The most prolific address, in Newtownabbey, made 405 calls - but police attended on just seven occasions and made no arrests. The most common reason given for the calls was "contact report", which covers "requests for advice or referral to another agency".

This was followed by a Belfast address, which made 279 calls, resulting in 199 police attendances and 18 arrests at the location. In this case, "concern for safety" was given as the most common reason for the calls.

And 164 calls were made from an Antrim property, leading to 113 police attendances and one arrest. Again, the most common reason for the contact was "concern for safety".

PSNI Chief Inspector Billy McIlwaine said that people calling 999 to access the police when it may not be necessary "is a problem across the UK, not just in Northern Ireland".

He said: "The 999 system exists to enable people to contact police and other blue light services in an emergency.

"That is if a crime is happening right now, someone is in immediate danger or there is a risk of serious damage to property, a suspect for a serious crime is nearby, or there is a traffic collision involving injury or danger to other road users.

"In all other cases, the appropriate way to contact police is via the 101 non-emergency number.

"Essentially, 999 provides a method for members of the public to get through to trained staff quickly in the event of an emergency. PSNI and other police and emergency services are consistent in highlighting misuse of the 999 service.

"We use social media, public meetings and everyday encounters with the public to highlight the different methods of contacting police.

"When anyone does use 999 inappropriately, we may ask them to terminate the call and redial on 101. This is to ensure that the 999 lines and the officers and staff who answer the calls are kept free to deal with genuine emergencies."

Chief Insp McIlwaine said the PSNI does not use the term "nuisance caller". He said: "We do record data around 'persistent callers', which are classified as follows: incidents where repeat or numerous calls are being received from the same person, where the caller is persistently reporting the same or similar incidents and/or making repeated calls about the same incident.

"This would include hoax calls to emergency services where the caller has or appears to have a mental health problem or delusional disorder and continually reports incidents that have not occurred.

"Each call is risk assessed and not dismissed because it comes from a persistent caller. Where appropriate, police will refer the caller to mental health services."

He said that misuse of the 999 service last year had not been costed "given the volume of calls and the complexity of the issues we deal with every day".

He added: "The real cost is in terms of the delay caused in dealing with routine matters that arrive via the emergency line.

"It should also be noted that where routine or non-urgent matters are received via 999, police may also record and respond to the incident reported."

Belfast Telegraph

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