A sick squirrel, a shower rat and a mum who needed a babysitter: Are these the most inappropriate 999 calls made in Norfolk?

Rhiannon Overton, communications officer at the control room at Wymondham Police headquarters. Pictu

Rhiannon Overton, communications officer at the control room at Wymondham Police headquarters. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Almost 90,000 calls made to Norfolk Constabulary last year were for matters not requiring police assistance, new figures reveal.

The control room at Wymondham Police headquarters. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The control room at Wymondham Police headquarters. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

They include a 999 call from one parent who asked if officers could babysit their child and another about a rabid squirrel spotted in a park.

Figures released today show that of the 359,696 calls made between August 2015 and July this year, 25pc were not appropriate for an emergency response.

In a bid to reduce that figure, the force has today launched its Make the Right Call campaign, aimed at encouraging people to think twice before calling 999 or 101 for non-police matters.

County policing commander, Chief Superintendent Mike Fawcett, said: 'The demand we face is extremely complex and our resources are finite, so making the right call ensures that our teams are dealing with matters affecting communities and responding to reports of crime.

Chief superintendent Mike Fawcett, county policing commander, in the control room at Wymondham Polic

Chief superintendent Mike Fawcett, county policing commander, in the control room at Wymondham Police headquarters, speaking about unnecessary 999 calls. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016


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'Knowing who to call in the first place will not only reduce the volume of calls to our staff, but will save members of the public time by speaking to the correct organisation in the first instance.'

Part of the new campaign will see police tweeting live from the control room in Wymondham to highlight some of the difficulties faced by call handlers.

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In the past few years they have received calls from people who have missed their trains, or would like to be taken home because they cannot afford a taxi.

While people are urged to still call the police in an emergency, the force said many unnecessary 999 calls it had received could be dealt with by other partner agencies, such as the council.

Common calls included issues around noise nuisance, animal and utility call-outs, and highways matters.

Chief Supt Fawcett said such calls could have a serious impact on people who are attempting to reach the police in a real emergency.

He explained: 'If we get a call which is a very serious road traffic accident, which is sat in the queue because someone is talking about squirrels, that person could die because the response does not get out to them.

'Just think before you make the call; is this really a matter you need to call police on? And more importantly is it an urgent matter that you need to ring 999 for?'

The force said it received an above average number of 999 and 101 calls in July this year, with 1,133 taken each day throughout the month.

To try to cope with the demand, since April 2015 it has had to change the way it handles calls from people who require help.

Calls are now assessed against six key themes – threat, harm, risk, investigation, vulnerability and engagement – to help handlers determine the right response more quickly.

Head of the contact and control room, Superintendent Malcolm Cooke said: 'Non-emergency or inappropriate calls tie up our phone lines and can prevent callers with genuine emergencies from getting through – at worst they can put other people's lives at risk. People should only call 999 if there is a direct and immediate threat to life or property or if a crime is in progress.

'Our staff prioritise people who are in immediate need and if you ring 999 in error you will be directed to call the 101 police non-emergency number or signposted to the most appropriate agency.'

To learn more about the campaign, people can follow updates on Twitter with the hashtag #MaketheRightCall.

Officers will give an insight into their work through 'day in the life' blog articles.

People who have questions around policing or non-policing matters can access a range of information on the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Norfolk Police website or via Ask the Police which can be found on any search engine.

The public can access information and advice using the FAQ link at www.norfolk.police.uk

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