Tayside and Central Scotland

Tayside officer calls for 999 callers to be charged 50p

Police control room generic
Sgt Hamilton suggests callers are charged 50p to report a 'genuine emergency'

A Tayside Police officer has called for people to be charged money to dial 999 in an effort to cut the number of nuisance calls.

David Hamilton, secretary of the Tayside branch of the Scottish Police Federation, has suggested callers pay 50p to report emergencies.

Sgt Hamilton's suggestion was prompted by his experience in the police control room.

The officer posted his idea on Twitter.

His tweet asked: "Maybe time to make 999 a premium rate number?

"If a genuine emergency you'd spend 50p to report it. Phone boxes exempt."

Figures from Tayside Police showed that in 2009 the force received 4,742 hoax or nuisance calls.

Inappropriate use

Sgt Hamilton said: "We may want to look at the possibly of a premium rate for 999 calls, because at the moments it's free, phoning the police through other lines is not free and we get a lot of inappropriately routed calls through to the 999 network that shouldn't be there.

"It is not hoaxers as such; it's people not using it properly and see it as an easy option to use the 999 network.

"Somebody who's been called a name on Facebook, that's not an emergency, yet that's the type of call we're getting to the 999 services."

He added some of the calls the police received were ridiculous.

"I know down south in Cornwall, they had a call where someone called 999 to report they had run out of toilet paper.

"That's the level of calls coming in and a significant number are of that nature and we need to try and see what we can do to stop that and this is just one option of many."

David Sinclair, from Victim Support Scotland, said he did not reject the idea completely, but that it would need some "very deep thinking".

National service

He said: "The thought that even one person could be deterred from calling 999 because of a charge needs to be seriously considered.

"The suggestion of a charge does not appear to be the most viable suggestion we have ever had, the 999 service is recognised as a national emergency service."

But Sgt Hamilton disputed the suggestion that people would be put off dialling 999 if they had to pay.

He added: "I would suggest if someone's house is burning down the last thing they are going to be worried about is spending 30 pence or 50 pence to make that call, it is an emergency.

"I don't accept people would be deterred. What it will do though, is deter people from making inappropriate use."

New number

A Tayside Police spokeswoman said: "The 999 emergency telephone number is a vital service and must remain free for every member of our communities to use.

"There are however instances when the 999 system is inappropriately used and we are addressing this by educating the public on its use.

"This coupled with the introduction of the single non-emergency number '101' in the coming months should make it easier for the public to contact the police in the most appropriate way."

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