Inappropriate 999 Calls

What would you do if a company had sent you the wrong clothes or you couldn't get through to the 101 line?

Or if you were lost and needed a taxi home? Or you thought there was a rat behind your wardrobe?

For some West Yorkshire residents the answer was to dial the emergency only 999 number and to ask for police assistance.

And the bizarre calls to the police don’t end there.

Residents have called the three 9s number used for emergencies including trying to get into a casino, retrieve a parcel and asking if Police could help to turn electricity back on in someone’s home.

But there is a serious side to these calls – the people ringing 999 for inappropriate reasons are potentially putting lives at risk by taking call handlers’ time away from genuine emergency calls.

West Yorkshire Police have been releasing videos on social media, highlighting just some of the ridiculous reasons why people choose to ring 999, in hopes of driving traffic down to the emergency line and to make sure that call handler’s time isn’t being wasted.

West Yorkshire Police Audio Clips via YouTube - Inappropriate 999 Calls

Tom Donohoe head of the Communications Division, said:

"These calls are so ridiculous it’s astonishing listening to them but they hide a serious truth."

“The 999 line should be used when there is a crime in progress or a threat to life. In those situations, seconds could mean the difference between officers catching a suspect at the scene or them getting away and ultimately life or death."

"Each call often takes minutes to deal with as our Customer Contact Centre staff have to clarify the situation – it might not sound like much but if someone is trying to get through to report a genuine life or death emergency then a minute is a very long time to wait."

“Our call handlers do try to be patient and appreciate that not all inappropriate 999 calls are hoaxes and that many are driven by mental health issues or a lack of awareness, that is why we all have a part to play in educating ourselves and others. They are all too aware though that every second they spend on the phone to someone who is not experiencing a real emergency, is vital time that they are not helping someone who is really in need."

“Before calling 999, you need to ask yourself, are you reporting a crime that is happening right now or is someone’s life in danger? If the answer isn’t yes to either of these questions then you should be looking at alternative contact methods.”

"Emergency graded incidents will result in an immediate response and it is imperative the West Yorkshire Police are in a position to receive the call and dispatch appropriate resources without delay."

"Typically we receive over 1,000 calls a day to the 999 number and our operatives have to deal with each one accordingly."

West Yorkshire Police is also continuing to highlight what the police should and should not be contacted about and options for doing so.

“It’s pretty obvious to everyone that the police are not the right people to phone to order a cheeseburger but there still remains misconceptions about when you should contact the police.

“Flytipping and noise nuisance for instance are a matter for your local council not the police; most damage only collisions don’t require any police involvement and need only be reported to your insurance company.

“Even for legitimate police matters, rather than phoning the non-emergency 101 phone number, there are a lot of options online to find out information, get progress on a case, report an offence or anti-social behaviour or to make contact with an officer,” Mr Donohoe added.


Some of the examples where you can ‘click before you call’:

Get a Crime Update

The Customer Contact Centre handles an average 2,800 101 calls a day. Around 20% of these calls are from victims of crime looking for an update on their  investigation or contact details for the officer investigating. West Yorkshire Police introduced the 'Get a Crime Update' system (formerly known as Local Crime Tracker) in 2014 which allows people to find out the status of their investigation by searching by their unique crime reference number. The Get a Crime Update system allows members of the public to use a dedicated online form to leave the officer in their case a message - this online form is sent direct to the Officer's email inbox.


Live Chat

Members of the public can have a two-way conversation with a member of the Customer Contact Centre team by using the Live Chat system on the West Yorkshire Police website. The benefit of using this system is that a Contact Centre Agent can provide assistance to a number of people at the same time, rather than being engaged on one phone line, and for quick queries, it is an ideal way to beat the queue.


Ask the Police

West Yorkshire Police has recently signed up to which offers answers to frequently asked questions to the police. Residents are urged wherever possible to check on the website or mobile app first to see if they can get an answer to their question without needing to contact the police.


Online crime reporting 

While 101 can be used to report crimes, there are also options to report crimes on the West Yorkshire Police website. There are dedicated forms for reporting anti-social behaviour, nuisance bikes and hate crime. 999 should always be used to report a crime in progress or if there is a threat to life


West Yorkshire Community Alert

West Yorkshire Police launched a new messenger system ‘West Yorkshire Community Alert’ in May which enables members of the public to keep in touch with local police updates. People can sign up for updates from their NPT or Neighbourhood Watch contacts, or join a number of specialised community interest groups such as business watch, dog walkers, motorists or crime prevention.

To find out more about the online services provided by West Yorkshire Police, please visit: