Police policy on 999 calls leaves people confused

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Mark Webb called police after he saw two groups of youths throwing objects and hitting each other with sticks outside his home.

Concerned at such behaviour and worried that it could rapidly escalate into worse violence, he dialled 999.

Would you have done the same? We wouldn’t be surprised in the least if you said yes.

But Mr Webb was in for a big surprise. Because when he got through to an operator, he was asked: ‘Is it a situation of life and death?’

He takes up the story: ‘When I said ‘’no’’, she said “unless this is a matter of life and death I cannot take this call and you have to call 101’’. ‘She hung up after I asked “are you just responding to life and death matters?” She said “yes, that is all I can take”.’

He says that a second operator showed more patience, but the whole experience has left him wondering what exactly is police policy over what they will and won’t respond to.

The concern is that the kind of anti-social behaviour experienced by Mr Webb does not fall within categories that will be responded to as a result of a 999 call.

A Hampshire police spokesman says: ‘Police should only be called using the 999 number in an emergency when there is a danger to life, a crime is in progress or when an offender is still at or has only just left the scene.’

We share Mr Webb’s concern that certain incidents no longer seem to warrant police intervention.

They say that his call was logged and the neighbourhood policing team was made aware of the incident. But that is very much after the event.

So what’s the alternative? Ring 101? Figures revealed recently that more than three million calls to this non-emergency service have gone unanswered over the past four years. Some callers have waited on the line for more than two hours before putting the phone down in frustration.

All of which leaves the likes of Mr Webb lamenting: ‘It is getting to a point where it is like letting the cowboys take over Dodge City’.

We can certainly see his point.

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