Emergency services inundated with 999 festive calls

EMERGENCY services in Comet country were inundated with 999 calls over the festive period, with people ringing both police and ambulance crews for non-emergencies or hoaxes.

The number of calls received by police on both 999 and the non-emergency number across the county peaked at 1,521 on December 29. There were 1,442 on New Years’ Eve, with 781 calls received on Christmas Day.

The figures come after police released a recording on YouTube of a 999 call where a woman rang in the early hours of Boxing Day morning to check if it was Christmas Day, before wishing the call-taker a Merry Christmas.

The operator can be heard asking if the call is being made to report an emergency, to which the woman replies “no”, before adding: “I just wanted to say, quickly, an important message to you if you could pass it on, OK, thank you. Merry Christmas.”

This was just one of many other hoax calls over Christmas and New Year. Between December 24 and January 3, there were four hoax calls in North Herts and nine in Stevenage - a 29 per cent increase on last year. Across the county, there were 114 recorded hoax calls over the same period, a 64 per cent increase compared to last year.

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Jason Baxter, assistant manager at the police force communications room urged people to only call for an emergency.

He said: “This kind of reckless behaviour could not only result in a criminal conviction for the foolish caller, it could also ultimately put other genuine callers’ lives at risk while they wait for their call to be answered or for officers to arrive.

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“Our message is making hoax calls like this is not funny or cool.”

Ambulance crews also received a high level of calls, with 48 from Stevenage, 12 from Hitchin and 14 from Letchworth on Christmas Day.

East of England Ambulance Service (EEAS) said it too received unnecessary phone calls, including one man who dialled the emergency number to ask for his electricity supply to be checked.

Gary Sanderson, spokesman for the EEAS said: “Unfortunately, we did attend emergency calls to people who didn’t really require a blue light ambulance.

“We are asking the public to please call 999 if someone is having a heart attack, a stroke or if they are unconscious. If you have a sore throat or a sprained ankle, please seek alternative advice.”

Maureen Bradley’s, whose husband works for the ambulance service, said: “My husband is amazed at the number of times they are called for something trivial, only for a member of the family to follow on in their own car.

“Invariably they are under the impression that they will be seen quicker if they arrive by ambulance and some actually have no qualms about admitting this.

“They will actually end up waiting longer if staff feel they have abused the system.”

The police hoax call can be viewed online by visiting www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqfyXgMjUwy

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