Above: Chief Inspector Gerard Pollock
Ringing police for a lift, to get cash from an ATM, or pick up a takeaway, are just some examples of the 999 calls made to the Police Service of Northern Ireland in the last year.
To highlight the issue, and reinforce the message that 999 should only ever be dialled in an emergency, over the next three weeks, from 5th-22th October, the Police Service is releasing audio of some actual calls to 999.
Chief Inspector Gerard Pollock, from the Police Service Contact Management Centre, is urging people to 'make the right call'. He says too many calls are being made to 999 that are plainly not emergencies, which could prevent a genuine life or death call being put through.
Chief Inspector Pollock said: "Misusing 999 is dangerous because it endangers others who need to get through to police, fire and ambulance or coastguard.
"In the UK there are millions of 999 calls each year and, in Northern Ireland, there are around 200,000 calls a year. That means every day there are more than 500 999 calls a day that all need to get through to an emergency operator.
"Misusing 999 displaces a genuine emergency and endangers that person in genuine need. Those who misuse the system need to ask themselves 'what if that was your family member who was unable to get help when they needed it?'"
In the 12 months, from 1st September 2019 to 1st September 2020, the Police Service handled 3,502 hoax calls.
Chief Inspector Pollock said: "While this is a 19 per cent reduction on the same period last year it’s still too many hoax calls. It's around 10 calls every day. We tend to have more hoax calls to 999 in the evenings and at weekends, and during the summer months.”
Chief Inspector Pollock added: "The emergency call handlers deal with people when they are vulnerable and in danger, so to abuse their trust and professionalism in this way is appalling. It diverts our staff and officers to dealing with hoax calls, time should be spent on dealing with issues that matter to our communities.
"This is not remotely funny, nor should it ever be done as a prank."
Chief Inspector Pollock added “Wasting police time in this way by making hoax calls is a crime and, upon conviction, carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a fine of £2,500.”