On the beat: Column by beat manager Martin Hudd
IWAS quite surprised that a suggestion from a police officer in the north of England, who stated the public should be charged the premium rate of 50p when making an emergency call to the police, did not court more controversy.
The officer made the suggestion in the belief that this would reduce the amount of calls the police control room received and almost eradicate the misuse of the emergency telephone number. So only people with a genuine emergency would call.
I am more than aware of the pressure that call operators in the police control room are under.
On a daily basis whilst at work I am either sent to or am aware of either an abandoned 999 call or a call that you know from the outset will be either bogus.Or certainly not turn out to be an emergency.
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In fact at present I am dealing with two individuals who regularly abuse the 999 system. Whilst not wishing to criminalise people it has to be remembered that for every bogus call they make, there is always the possibility that a genuine emergency is not being dealt with. As an emergency service these types of calls demand some form of response and closure.
It also has to be remembered that due to the circumstances a person may find themselves in dialling 999 could be the only way they can communicate with the police.
This can be the case in domestic situations where the person concerned feels unable to talk or give details or are being assaulted. We have provisions in place to trace these types of calls and an officer is dispatched to attend.
The misuse of the emergency telephone number may not automatically result in someone being charged.
If it is a genuine mistake or children playing with the telephone we still have to attend but on these occasions normally strong words of advice are given.
But individuals who regularly misuse the number or are abusive to control room staff can at the very least expect to either be issued with a fixed penalty fine or placed before the court where if convicted can be the subject of an anti-social behaviour order.
I personally believe that charging someone for making an emergency call would make people more reluctant to contact us either when they are the victim of a crime or when they witness a crime.
And that includes when there is a genuine emergency. It also needs to be remembered that not everyone has access to a mobile telephone or 50p in their pocket so some provision would have to be made to address this.
The mechanics are in place to deal with people who misuse the emergency telephone number.
So let us encourage the courts to punish the people who abuse this system and allow the genuine emergency free access to obtain help.