Woman calls 999 over lost glasses

A woman standing outside Specsavers who could not find her glasses was just one of a number of 999 calls revealed by police as they urged people to "think first" before phoning the emergency number.

Police have reported an increase in the number of callers contacting the emergency 999 number with non-urgent matters.

In the last month, 999 calls to Devon and Cornwall Police have risen by 40% at peak times - the majority of them non-urgent or in some cases reporting matters that are not dealt with by the police.

Inappropriate calls that have been clogging up the emergency phone lines range from problems with utilities to complaints about noise. The force's call handlers, who are trained in dealing with emergencies, said one woman called to say she was standing outside Specsavers and could not find her glasses.

Another woman called 999 and asked the call handler if officers could come to her house and test her plug sockets to see if they were working correctly. When the woman was challenged about calling the emergency number rather than an electrician, she said she had also called the fire service and they refused to help.

In one of a number of calls about noise complaints, a man from the Helston area in Cornwall called 999 and stated it was not an emergency or a crime but more of an annoyance that his neighbour was playing his radio loudly. Devon and Cornwall Police said officers do not deal with noise complaints and it is the responsibility of the council to deal with noise issues.

In another example of inappropriately using the 999 number, a woman called to say she had just got out of a taxi and had left her handbag in it. The woman wanted police to follow the taxi and get her handbag back. She was given the 101 number to report a lost bag.

The call centre said it was getting a number of callers on busy Friday and Saturday nights from people asking for lifts home or taxi firm numbers.

Superintendent Craig Downham, head of call management and communications, said the inappropriate use of the 999 number is putting the lives of people who need immediate assistance in a real emergency at risk. "There has been a marked increase in people calling 999 for non-emergencies," Mr Downham said. "The 999 number should only be used for situations where life is threatened, people are injured, offenders are nearby or if immediate action is required with an urgent response. 999 should only be used in an emergency."

The number 101 has replaced 08452 777444 and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for non-emergency calls.