Want a cab? Don't call 999!

PUBLISHED: 11:26 16 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:53 11 May 2010

COMMUNICATION operator Jules Barclay checks out another call.

COMMUNICATION operator Jules Barclay checks out another call.

NEED a taxi home after a night on the town? Or maybe you want the recipe on how to cook a turkey for Christmas dinner? How about the number of a plumber to come and fix your washing machine? Well who are you going to call? For some people, it would se

NEED a taxi home after a night on the town?

Or maybe you want the recipe on how to cook a turkey for Christmas dinner?

How about the number of a plumber to come and fix your washing machine?

Well who are you going to call?

For some people, it would seem the police are the best option.

These examples are just some of the astonishing queries control staff at Hertfordshire Constabulary have dealt with.

And the people who think dialling 999 is acceptable in these cases are probably unaware they are in fact making a hoax call.

In Royston and Buntingford, a total of 2,206

999 calls were made to Herts police from January- September this year.

Out of those, 157 calls - or 7.1 per cent - were deemed inappropriate.

Force contact manager Vanessa Lye is responsible for 200 control centre staff at the police HQ in Welwyn Garden City.

She said: "A hoax call doesn't have to be malicious. It is the term used for someone who misuses the line service.

"It's a small percentage of people who can cause a significant amount of work for us. There aren't that many people in Hertfordshire who make hoax calls.

"When we take any call we try to understand the vulnerability of the caller to see what service we can offer them.

"We have a duty to everyone who calls us and we always look at the individual's circumstances.

"We've successfully prosecuted many throughout Hertfordshire for misusing our service.

"Ultimately we are trying to get the lines free for a genuine emergency, so please don't call 999 when it's not an emergency."

Jason Baxter, force contact assistant manager, explained suspected hoax calls were never taken at face value.

"If we got a call saying there was a bomb in a shopping centre, we wouldn't take that at face value if we suspect it is a hoax, and the same goes for every other suspected hoax call."

When asked if staff can tell the difference between a genuine call and a hoax call, he added: "Genuine calls will have information forthcoming while hoax callers may not be so forthcoming with information."

Across the county, the force has received 125,000 999 calls since January this year. Out of those, 12,000 required an immediate police response.

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