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LISTEN: Police release time-wasting 999 calls as they urge caution at Christmas

By Plymouth Herald  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

By CARL EVE, Crime Reporter @CarlEveCrime

Comments (23)

DEVON and Cornwall’s top cop has urged people to look out for each other this Christmas as the force prepares to deal with a drastic rise in calls.

In his Christmas message to the public, Chief Constable Shawn Sawyer said he wanted people to enjoy the festive season safely.

He noted how incidents of domestic violence increase during the run up to Christmas and New Year, along with drink driving, missing people and a variety of alcohol-related crimes.

He said: “Basically, our message is ‘Please look out for each other’ while we’re looking out for you – by which I mean the public and emergency services.”

Chief Constable Sawyer said he recently met with the chief executive of Plymouth City Council to talk about safety and emphasised that there had been planning by the authority and the emergency services for its response to the seasonal issues.

However, with cuts biting across the board, he was keen to stress the public had to play its part.

He said: “We can’t be there all the time and many of the things we’re called to are pretty avoidable.”

He said missing persons reports around this time of year soaked up resources, but noted how some were just people who got separated from their friends after a night out drinking.

“It’s like lifeboats – many people get into difficulty because of a lack of thought or preparation.

“The best crime prevention is by the public themselves. We work with Neighbourhood Watch, Horse Watch, Marine Watch, Community Watch – it is about people watching out for each other.

“It’s a universal concept. Just because it’s old fashioned, it doesn’t mean it’s not right. It’s about knowing your neighbours and I think it still exists down here [in the South West].

“Sometimes Plymouth as a community really rock with young and old people side by side, such as the British Fireworks Championships on the Hoe. I think community cohesion really works in places like Plymouth.”

With a reduction in the policing budget, he said it was important to “manage down demand” on services or risk becoming “just a crisis organisation”.

One such concern was children receiving mobile phones for Christmas. Chief Constable Sawyer said it was “incumbent” on parents to be up to speed on what their children could and couldn’t access online.

“It’s about being aware. We have seven year olds with phones because parents want them to be physically safe, but are they being socially safe? We will see them on their first day back to school with their brand new phones, wanting to show them off.

“All the services want you to have fun and be safe this Christmas, but you can make things easier by keeping yourself safe.”


POLICE would rather not get calls from people asking how to defrost a turkey or where to get toilet rolls this Christmas.

These calls, and other strange ones, are annually dealt with by the force's patient call handlers.

However Chief Supt Jim Nye, commander of operations for the force area, hopes people will think hard before making such frivolous calls.

Chief Supt Nye said the force received around one million calls last year, of which around 220,000 were 999 calls and the remaining calls on the non-emergency 101 line.

December 25, 2012 saw handlers deal with 531 999 calls and 721 non-emergency 101 calls, while December 31 2012 saw 541 999 calls and around 1,400 101 calls. However, by January 1, 2013 the numbers had jumped to 1,142 separate 999 calls and more than 1,500 101 calls.

Chief Supt Nye said the calls were a huge demand on police and customer service surveys showed 85 percent of callers where satisfied with the response they received.

However, he urged people help reduce the demand on stretched services by thinking whether the incident was truly an emergency, a non-emergency, or something partner agencies should deal with.

He also encouraged people to refer to the Devon and Cornwall Police website first for guidance.

He said: “If a crime is taking place, offenders are nearby, or life is at risk, call 999. If you are unsure and ring 101 the call can be upgraded to the emergency number if the call handler feels it should.

“Our staff are very professional and are trained to deal with these different calls.

“Some people phone 999 just to be abusive, others are emotional. Our call handlers will take time to try and deal with them using their training and experience.”

Matt Harding, a police call handler for more than five years and said the volume of calls during the festive season, particularly on New Years Eve, added pressure to the force.

He said: “You have very little time in between calls. You continue to do the research that’s required to make sure everyone’s safe.

“It’s inevitable many calls are alcohol related. You have people calling saying their unhappy they’ve been asked to leave a club and door staff won’t let them in. You’re trying to talk sense into them, which at the best of times is hard, but when it’s a drunk person it’s even harder.”

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  • BetinaBooty  |  December 18 2013, 11:03PM

    Quite clearly the police force, as the NHS and most public sector staff see the public as a nuisance and are only good for one thing, paying their wages and funding their pensions.

    Rate   1
  • RedThumbs  |  December 18 2013, 12:09AM

    A Police force that sat back and watched rioting, looting and arson on the streets of London for 3 days before taking any action and a Police force that sat around a computer writing false witness statements concerning a cabinet minister have clearly lost the plot when it comes to the safety of the public and the respect for democratic authority.

    Rate   1
  • RedThumbs  |  December 17 2013, 10:01AM

    Back on topic - The Police stopped 'caring' about the public over 40 years ago. It is quite clear that these days the public sector (uncaring hospital staff, striking firefighters) is run purely as a job fof life little boys club. The only people who really gain from the public sector are it's career minded employees.

    Rate   1
  • RedThumbs  |  December 17 2013, 9:34AM

    It is quite clear that a number of those who work for the Herald, the public sector, the council, various dubious charity concerns that are publically funded, i.e. various self interest parties use the 'report button' as a way of censoring political debate. The moderators, if they can be bothered to read the comments take the easy option and just remove the comment regardless of whether it breaks any rules or not. A great deal of accounts are disabled for no other reason then 'vested interests' don't want debate. The Herald are complicate in this and are misleading the public by presenting the heavily censored remains as public comment.

    Rate   7
  • CawsandRoger  |  December 17 2013, 2:46AM

    I laugh at the idea of the "Herald's left wing liberal philosophy"! The Herald is a conservative paper, owned by the same people that print the Daily Mail, the most right-wing paper in the UK.

    Rate   -1
  • suzy123  |  December 16 2013, 11:59PM

    Carl_Eve......today I had a remark removed, quite rightly so, I thought I was writing on the Herald Express site, I did not know it was actually the Plymouth Herald site, you should really do something about that, I realise you are the same company group. I AM NOT A TROLL, the REAL TROLL on the Herald Express site had written on this site under three names today....theDisabled, DickShafter and DickEddington, you will agree he is not nice and writes with vitriol normally about Torquay and it's inhabitants, the Herald Express and dogs pooing on the beach and the prostitutes that parade around the Castle Circus area. He has used over 200 names in the past year, 7 different names since last Wednesday. I despair about this character and I just wrote three words out frustration, can you understand that? I am a woman who puts up with these people, it is like water off a ducks back with these banal comments, for some reason I saw red . Only last week he had a go at a mother who had lost her daughter through suicide, today he has a go at Sue Colley for no reason at all unless he is jealous of her. He deserves to be banned from here for life, your logging in system needs an ending in some way and he manipulates your ratings system. What can be done Carl_Eve? Sorry if I upset anyone with my bad language. The troll changes sex often. He was banned by your site earlier today under the name DickShafter......says it all really. Suzy

    Rate   -69
  • theDisabled  |  December 16 2013, 7:14PM

    The account below didn't last long, seems he is speaking the truth.

    Rate   9
  • DickShafter  |  December 16 2013, 4:19PM

    Suzy Colley not wanted as mayor by the population of Torquay, as has been proven everytime she has stood for the post. True, but as she is the Herald's favourite left wing liberal - ban.

    Rate   1
  • DickShafter  |  December 16 2013, 4:16PM

    Mentioning that the Leonard Stocks centre is a dumping ground for criminal dossers gets you a ban. Even though it has been used for years as a stepping stone to resettle addicts, sex offenders, criminals into our community. Heavily publically funded but not wanted by the residents of Torquay. That's enough for a ban in the Herald.

    Rate   1
  • DickShafter  |  December 16 2013, 4:00PM

    WHAT ABSOLUTE RUBBISH. You can get posts removed and your account disabled for as little as stating Public Sector workers are wrong to strike. The Herald are running a pro liberal conspiracy and removing any posts that seem too right wing for them. They then disable the account of the user, very rearly are any guidelines breached. The Herald need to learn to be honest.

    Rate   1