Woman made 8,000 bogus 999 calls

THE under-pressure staff of the county's 999 services have been deluged with more than 9,000 hoax calls throughout the past 12 months, it emerged today.

Colin Adwent

THE under-pressure staff of the county's 999 services have been deluged with more than 9,000 hoax calls throughout the past 12 months, it emerged today.

The county's police force was targeted more than any other emergency service with one elderly woman suffering from mental health issues making nearly 8,000 bogus calls in the first nine months of this year.

At one stage the pensioner, aged in her 80s and living in the Babergh area, phoned in 23 per cent of all 999 messages in one month alone, clogging up the police switchboard.

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In July she was responsible for 1,877 calls out of a total of 8,140, while between January and September the OAP rang the emergency line 7,953 times out of a total of 75,885 calls.

Officers stress that because of her health problems they have been very sympathetic and tried to help her. She was identified as vulnerable and needing support, with police and partner agencies putting in place an action plan to assist her.

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Since then the number of 999 calls she has made have dramatically decreased.

The woman's situation is an extreme case and Suffolk police said that in the last full financial year it received 1,102 hoax 999 messages compared to 910 from April 1, 2007 to March 31, 2008.

A bogus message is defined as conveying information which is false or known to be false for the purpose of causing distress, anxiety or the wasteful misdirection of emergency services. This includes calls made by people with mental health problems who report incidents which have not occurred.

Speaking in general terms, rather than about the incidents involving the woman with mental health problems, Chief Inspector Ady Dawson, who oversees the Suffolk Constabulary's operation room, said: “999 is used to contact the emergency services upon witnessing or being involved in an emergency. Hoax calls divert emergency services away from people who genuinely need our help.

“All calls to the police service are recorded and investigators can trace the call, which can then be used as evidence to prosecute offenders. Making a 999 hoax call is against the law, is a waste of precious time and resources, and could ultimately put someone's life at risk.”

The county's fire service has been least affected by false emergency calls over the last two financial years with just over 200 hoaxes.

From April 1, 2007, and March 31, 2008, there were 133 calls, while last year there were 68.

The East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust had to respond to 1,152 bogus emergency calls in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire last year compared to 1,260 the previous year, according to a spokeswoman.

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