Police are urging people to think twice before they dial 999 over the festive period after it emerged that one force had received an emergency call asking where someone could buy sprouts from.
South Wales Police shared audio of the unbelievable incident, in which the caller asks: “Where can I buy Brussel sprouts?” on its Twitter account as part of a campaign to remind people only to use 999 in an emergency.
During the call, the handler reminds the caller that 999 should be used for emergencies only, to which they reply: “It is an emergency. I haven’t got any sprouts for Christmas dinner!”
It’s not the first time police have shared ridiculous 999 calls - last year the Met Police shared some of it’s most jaw-dropping calls to remind people that 999 is for emergencies only.
🎧💬 "South Wales Police, what’s your emergency?”— South Wales Police (@swpolice) December 22, 2019
📞💬 "Where can I buy Brussel sprouts?”
Using 9️⃣9️⃣9️⃣ inappropriately delays us from answering a genuine emergency call. It puts lives at risk.
Dialling 999 when it’s not an emergency, it’s no joke.
Alongside South Wales Police, its neighbouring force in North Wales said a lost bus pass, being sold the wrong mobile phone top up and a stray sheep on a farmers’ yard were just a few examples of some of the 999 calls the force had received over the past few months.
Other examples of inappropriate calls and emails included a request for advice regarding a possible broken ankle and a man who was looking for help in tracing a girl he had met on holiday.
North Wales Police said it receives an average of 230,000 calls a year - of which 68,000 are 999 emergency calls.
Temporary Inspector Gary Lloyd, Force Incident Manager, said: “Each unnecessary call to us reduces time available for calls which are for genuine policing matters.”
A report regarding a lost buss pass, being sold the incorrect mobile phone top up and a stray sheep on a farmers’ yard are just some of the examples of the 999 calls we have received over recent months.— North Wales Police (@NWPolice) December 23, 2019
Read more via https://t.co/gCgLUFPiOi pic.twitter.com/haeL7nWWvQ
He said: “Phoning 999 – which is an emergency line, for trivial matters such as telling us a taxi hasn’t turned up is a complete waste of resources, and could possibly prevent a genuine life or death emergency call being put through.
“We would particularly like to remind people that we are not a taxi service. We receive a lot of calls at this time of year from people who want a lift home, often because they haven’t left themselves enough money to get home themselves; that call could stop someone who genuinely requires an immediate police response from being able to get through to us.”
He said police do have powers to prosecute people for misusing the 999 system and if they are found consistenty making hoax calls.
Additionally, he urged people not to abandon a call if they dial 999 by accident - revealed that 17,000 abandoned 999 calls have been made to the force’s control room so far this year.
“Each abandoned 999 call places pressure as they have to be investigated to ensure the safety of the caller,” he added.
“We appreciate that accidents do happen, that children can hit buttons whilst playing with their parents’ phone, or it accidentally sets off whilst in someone’s pocket, but the impact of hundreds of dropped 999 calls a day adds up.
“Our advice is simple - if you call 999 by accident and the call is answered, please explain what’s happened. It will only take a few seconds and will enable the call to be cleared with no issues.”
Generally, 999 should only be used if a life is in danger or someone is being physically threatened, or if you are witnessing a crime happening at the time, or think the offenders are still nearby, or if you witness or are involved in a serious road traffic collision where someone is badly injured, or other vehicles are causing an obstruction or a danger to other road users.