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Kent Police warn of inappropriate use of 999 emergency phone number

By KentOnline reporter

Kent Police are warning callers they could be putting lives at risk if they wrongly use the 999 emergency line.

The alert comes after one busy day in June saw 44% of all calls to 999 labelled as inappropriate by Kent Police.

They include some who claimed they weren't prepared to wait for the 101 service and some who were short of mobile phone credit so used 999 because it's free.

Callers are wrongly using the 999 service. Library image

Callers are wrongly using the 999 service. Library image

Police urged the public to only use 999 in a genuine emergency and to use 101 for all non-emergency situations.

In one seven-hour shift on Friday 23 June 2017, 70 of the 158 calls (44%) to 999 were found to be inappropriate and did not warrant an emergency response.

Examples of other inappropriate calls taken on the same shift include:

  • Reported bad driving in the Dartford area that happened 10 minutes ago. Caller did not want to wait in the queue for 101
  • Prank call made in Broadstairs
  • Caller wanted update on a stolen car enquiry
  • Caller wanted some information on a car being sold
  • Mother refusing to hand over property following family dispute in Lydd
  • Nuisance bike riding around a residential housing estate East Malling
  • Car speeding in Dartford – no registration given

An average of 1500 calls are made to the non-emergency 101 number in Kent every single day. An average of 900 calls are made to Kent Police on the 999 number.

Chief Superintendent Nicola Faulconbridge, Head of Crime and Incident Response said:  "We’re not doing this to shame or embarrass the people who’ve dialled 999. We just want people to think first whether their call really does constitute a real emergency.

"We are currently experiencing an extremely high number of calls to both 999 and 101 and I know at peak times it can take us longer than usual to answer 101 calls. 

Police Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott

Police Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott



"Our operators do answer calls as quickly as possible, and I’d ask people to be patient and try again later if possible.

"We are looking at ways to reduce call congestion and developing ways that the public can report some matters online. "

The public can help by only calling 999 when:

  • There is a danger to life or a risk of injury being caused imminently. Examples include serious road accidents, assaults or serious disorders.
  • A crime in in progress. Examples include assault, burglary, and theft or if an offender is still on scene, or has just left the scene.
  • Police attendance is required immediately such as to prevent a breach of peace, someone acting suspiciously or someone who is about to commit an offence.

Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott said: "I know it can be frustrating for the public to have to wait for 101 calls to be answered. I have been holding the Chief Constable to account for this and response times are improving.

"However, the force needs the public’s help too. At periods of peak demand it is entirely right that 999 calls are prioritised and it is not acceptable for 999 to be used simply as an alternative to 101.

"Every inappropriate call to 999 puts the lives of people in a genuine emergency at risk."

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