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News : 999 Staff Bombarded with Five False Calls Each Day
Feb 10, 2014 -- Emergency services bosses warned false calls were costly and could put lives at risk.
They hit out after it emerged callers had dialled 999 due to cold takeaways, crashed computers and a young man who wouldn’t get out of bed.
The force received 1,733 bogus 999 calls last year.
Merseyside fire service was also plagued by 277 prank calls in 2013 – more than five a week.
Emergency service bosses say officers cannot attend real emergencies while dealing with time-wasters.
Shelly Dooley, head of Merseyside police’s force contact centre, said: "We do not tolerate hoax calls and each one is followed up, with efforts made to trace who made the call and where from.
"Some people see hoax calls as a prank, but they are definitely not humorous and their consequences can be extremely serious.
"People may think they are committing a prank against the police, but in reality it is another member of the public who may suffer as a result of not receiving the help they genuinely need if our officers are busy dealing with fictitious incidents.
"Hoax callers need to understand that they can face a prison sentence if caught."
A fire service spokesman added: "Hoax calls put lives at risk and are a costly and wasteful abuse of resources.
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"Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service investigates every hoax call we receive and we work with Merseyside police and the Crown Prosecution Service to identify and prosecute offenders."
He added: "I would urge anyone thinking of making a hoax call to resist the temptation as the consequences could be very severe."
The ECHO used Freedom of Information requests to ask emergency services how many hoax 999 calls they have received over the past three years. The results show hoax calls in Merseyside are becoming less common.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service received 381 prank calls in 2012 and 378 in 2011. Merseyside police was targeted by hoaxers 2,035 times in 2012 and 2,192 times in 2011.
But police and fire unions believe prank calls could increase due to government budget cuts.
Mark Rowe, secretary of the Merseyside Fire Brigades Union, said: "It’s particularly children and youths who make hoax calls and they need to be educated about the consequences.
"The loss of firefighters on the ground means we cannot give this education in schools and other places so the number of hoax calls could increase again."
Peter Singleton, chairman of the Merseyside Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, added: "Hoax calls are a real risk to our ability to respond to genuine emergencies.
He added: "The cost of time-wasting calls is quite considerable. It is wasting taxpayers’ money that we cannot afford to waste as we have lost millions from the police budget recently."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Wednesday, February 12, 2014