Campaign launched after West Midlands Police sees unprecedented demand of 999 calls
Written by Tristan Harris on August 7, 2018
WEST MIDLANDS Police has launched a campaign urging residents to only call 999 in a real emergency.
It comes just weeks after the force revealed its highest daily number of emergency calls – 3,276 on July 7 – a rise of 40 per cent on the daily average.
The campaign will be done across social media to remind people when they should be calling 999 and when they should dial 101.
Most of those 3,276 were not life or death situations or reporting crimes while they were in progress – the only times 999 should be used.
The drive, which began yesterday, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will also direct people to WMP online services for some answers to frequently ask questions. They will also reveal where people can report low-level crime, such as live criminal damage and theft.
Lyndsey Swallow, head of Contact Handling at WMP, said: “The 999 service is precious: it should be reserved for emergency incidents, when people are in danger, or to report crimes in progress.
“We’re here to help and protect the public – but sometimes we can’t get to people as quickly as we’d like because lines are being clogged up with less serious issues or things that couldn’t possibly be considered a police matter.
“If it’s not an emergency then people can call us on 101 number – but many of the queries we get on that number could be satisfied with a simple internet search.
“WMP Online now has a wealth of information and advice on a range of issues and should be a first port of call for people if their call isn’t urgent – and lower level crimes like thefts and criminal damage can now be reported online as well.”
Last weekend, West Midlands Police took a total of 5,056 emergency 999 calls, spiking at around 1.30am on Saturday morning when almost 50 were taken inside 15 minutes.
Despite the unprecedented demand – on some days outstripping even New Year’s Eve, traditionally the busiest day of the year for police call takers – almost eight in every 10 emergency calls were still answered within 10 seconds.
Call handler Olivia, one of those taking part in the video campaign, recently marked one year with West Midlands Police.
She said: “It’s constant at the moment – the highest demand I’ve ever seen – and I’d say I’m answering up to 50 calls a day. There can at times be tens of calls in the queue on the 101 number and that’s why we’d advise people to go online.
“It’s a pressurised job but really varied; you’re always on your toes as you never know who you’ll pick up the phone to next.
“I once spoke to a nine-year-old girl who called to say she was being abused by her stepdad: she was really brave and gave a very articulate account of what was happening, which of course helps the investigation team.
“And another time I was on the phone to a man who’d suffered a cardiac arrest; I alerted ambulance colleagues and kept him talking but he died moments later. I just hope I was able to offer him some comfort.”
Search WMP Online for help and advice on a range of subjects – the answers to many questions can be found on the force’s new website without the need for calling.