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Emergency services? Please help, my pigeon can't breathe

Hoax and ludicrous 999 calls are putting additional pressure on overstretched staff at a time of swingeing budget cuts

A surge in the number of ludicrous or hoax 999 calls is causing a genuine emergency. Photograph: Rex Features
To the callers it's obvious: if you've dropped your new glasses in the street, are being irritated by your neighbour playing his radio too loudly, or your pigeon is wheezing – just phone 999.
A surge in the number of ludicrous or hoax 999 calls – Cleveland policealone report a 35% increase in the year to 2011, and Devon and Cornwall report that peak-time calls were up by 40% last month – is causing a genuine emergency, putting tremendous pressure on overstretched staff at a time of swingeing budget cuts.
Some forces are determined to tackle the malicious callers or time wasters. One caller who rang police 23 times asking for a lift from Hartlepool to Stockton was prosecuted, as was a 17-year-old girl whose hoax call about a bomb in Middlesbrough town centre caused chaos as the whole area was evacuated.
The ambulance service in Leeds, West Yorkshire, received a 33-minute 999 call in July, apparently from a terrified three-year-old girl. After an extensive and costly search by police, the hoaxers turned out to be two 10-year-old girls in Bridlington. Although they are at the age of criminal responsibility, police have said they will not be prosecuted.
In Hampshire Jason Garrad, who called police up to seven times a day, at one point about his pet hamster, was sentenced to 80 hours unpaid work. He was already in breach of an antisocial behaviour order, and agreed he had "too much time on his hands".
In North Staffordshire 100 calls threatening to smash up police cars, made over six days, were traced to the home in Fenton of unemployed Yasmin Adams, 21, who said she did it because she was bored. She was given a 24-month community order.
In the East Midlands a man rang to ask for help with a pigeon suffering from breathing difficulties; another said he'd been bitten by a snake but turned out to be high on drugs. Other cases among the 1,800 hoax or inappropriate calls last year include the caller who said they hadn't slept for two days, the man bleeding because he had squeezed a spot, and the incompetent wanting help to change a battery in a remote control. Michael Jones, ambulance service delivery manager, said the calls weren't limited to one specific age group, they receive them from adults, children and teenagers. What they had in common, he said, was a complete lack of understanding that their calls left others who couldn't get through at risk.
David Mackie, associate medical director at Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said the 2,000 hoax calls were a tiny proportion of the 750,000 calls they received each year, but warned: "It's a great additional burden on ambulance services, which are incredibly busy anyway."
Some callers have mental health issues, some are from children and teenagers, and others are from attention-seeking adults who in his words "like to see ambulances, police cars and fire engines".
On Merseyside, where the fire service received 1,122 hoax calls in 2011, an investigation identified 18 adults who were responsible for a total of 1,000 calls over 24 months. In South Wales a man called an ambulance reporting stomach pains, but recovered promptly on arrival at University Hospital Cardiff, and ran off shouting "thanks for the lift, mate". The service also reports people dialling 999 the afternoon after the night before, when the hangover wears off and they discover injuries.
The Bridlington MP Greg Knight said that although it was a serious issue, it was a historic problem. In 1937, in the first week of the 999 service, there were 91 hoax calls.
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Ditulis oleh: taufik hidayat - Sunday, October 7, 2012

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