Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Misusing the 999 system

Devon and Cornwall police have just issued some publicity about the misuse of the treble 9 system for emergency calls. Apparently a staggering 70% of calls received by their emergency room operators are inappropriate, either hoax calls, non-emergency police calls or calls that have absolutely nothing to do with the police. Among the last mentioned were a call from a lady who had a problem with returning some clothing to a store and another person who saw a large owl on a telegraph pole! I kid you not. One problem that has been highlighted is the lack of knowledge regarding the non emergency number: for the record this is the main switchboard number 08452 777444. Yes it's in the phone directory under "Police" but that's not too helpful if you are out somewhere with your mobile.

In a small number of places in the country (not Devon or Cornwall unfortunately) a new non emergency number is being trialled. This is a three digit number, 101, which isn't too onerous to remember. In Hampshire there has already been some success with this with some switching of calls from 999 to 101. As to which number to use a policeman on the radio suggested that if the event was such that a flashing blue light response was in order then use 999, otherwise 101. As an example he cited someone seen in the process of spraying graffiti would demand a 999 call but if you saw said graffiti but there was no sign of the perpetrator then use 101. However we are not likely to see the 101 system in our two counties for many months to come.

On the subject of the police I was pleased to hear that they are having a bit of a crackdown in Plymouth on drivers using mobiles whilst they are on the move. Next year they are doubling the fine from £30 to £60 and adding 3 penalty points to the driver's licence. If it wasn't for the problem of clogging up the courts I would elevate the offence to one of driving without due care and attention. What really angered me some months ago was hearing Jeremy (that idiot) Clarkson on BBC's "Top Gear" suggesting there wasn't anything wrong with using a mobile whist driving! He suggested that it was no different to talking to a passenger in your car. Well of course it is totally different. The person making the phone call from miles away has no idea of the hazards the driver is facing at that moment and it is a fact that you as a driver will be distracted by that "invisible" person even if only to a small degree. I don't mind Clarkson being politically incorrect but for gods sake we are talking about peoples lives here. I think part of the trouble is that Mr Clarkson is seduced by gadgets, he always seems to be looking for some gadget or toy to play with whilst driving. Something of a dilemma for the BBC as that programme is very popular; normally they take a very mature attitude to public safety.

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