The force has seen an “unprecedented increase” in demand this year, with the increase in calls resulting in a drop in call answering times. However, it said a number of changes to improve call handling had resulted in “a marked improvement”.
But as New Year’s Eve approaches – historically one of the busiest nights of the year – the force is asking members of the public to only call 999 with genuine emergencies and 101 with genuine police matters.
It has given recent examples of inappropriate calls to the control room, including a 14-year-old boy whose parents refused to give him a lift home when he missed the train and told him to ring the police; someone who was bored and rang 999 17 times to tell them so; and someone whose partner had been arrested, wanted to complain about it, but they had no credit on their phone, so rang 999 repeatedly.
Chief Inspector Charlotte Bloxham, Head of the Force Control Room, said: “It isn’t just a case of receiving an inappropriate call and then putting the phone down, for example the call from the boy whose parents refused to give him a lift resulted in a further three calls being made by the control room to ensure his safety. Two to his mother and one back to him. This took up valuable time that should have been used for genuine police-related matters.
“We plan ahead for New Year’s Eve and other busy times and will have extra staff on duty in the control room but it can get extremely busy.”