Bedfordshire Police is encouraging people to make the right call as part of a new campaign aimed at raising awareness of the non-emergency 101 number.
Every day people call 999 when 101 would have been a better choice, potentially impacting on the time it takes for those who are suffering genuine emergencies to get through to the police control room.
The non-emergency 101 number should be used for reporting any criminal incidents where the crime is not in progress and there is no current risk to a person or property.
Calls to 101 cost 15p for the duration of the call.
Wayne Humberstone, head of the Bedfordshire Police force control room, said: “It’s really important that the public know how best to get in touch with the police.
“Any non-emergency issues, such as stolen property or information about a drug dealer, should be reported to us via our 101 number and we can then provide the most appropriate response.
“If you need to get in touch with us but it is not an emergency then I really would urge you to make the right call and contact us on 101. By calling 999 in a non-emergency situation you are potentially blocking a phone line that could be needed by someone in a life-threatening situation.”
Last year the force took around 80,000 999 calls and 300,000 101 calls, in addition to other calls from other emergency services colleagues and other agencies
You should call 101 if:
- You want to report a crime that is not in progress
- You have information about a crime such as a drug dealing
- You wish to speak to a local police officer
999 should only be used in a genuine emergency, for example if a serious crime is in progress or if there is a threat to life.
Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway said: “The 101 number was introduced nationally and, at first, there was a publicity campaign around it.
“Sadly this didn’t hit the mark in the long term as at least a third of the audience in the public meetings I address regularly are either totally unaware of the service or don’t know that it should be used for all but life-threatening calls and those concerning a crime actually in progress, such as a burglary, when 999 should always be used.
“I’m entirely aware that the 101 number can be abused since there is a tendency for the police to be considered the first port of call every time someone is discontented.
“I’ve even been sitting in the Force Control Room when a call handler received a complaint about the quality of a take-away.
“There’re a lot of myths around 101 and its effectiveness but I’ve used it to report crime concerns myself over and over again since I came into this office and been answered in only minutes and I can assure the public that the call handlers don’t know it’s me calling until I get through.”