Banff & District Community Safety Group launch a campaign to call a halt to the problem of false 999 calls
PC Adrian Moar & Robbie Robinson, chairman of Banff and District Community Safety Group, put up a poster about false emergency calls. Photo: The Banffshire Journal
The problem of false 999 calls made by young children in the area - mostly preteens - has prompted a campaign by the police to call a halt. On average, 26 callers a month in the Banff-Turriff area dial the emergency operator and say - nothing.
Now a poster and leaflet campaign has been launched by the police and the Banff & District Community Safety Group to educate children and their parents in an effort to prevent the emergency system being distracted from its real purpose of saving lives.
The policeman behind the new initiative is PC Adrian Moar at Banff. He said:
"This misuse needlessly wastes the time of all the emergency services in responding to or tracking such calls, and in this campaign we hope to educate children that it is a bad idea.
And PC Moar has a word of warning for parents too:
"Don't let your children abuse the system.
"Remember - one day you might be the one anxiously awaiting the arrival of the police, fire brigade or ambulance."
PC Moar also revealed the four 'hotspot' telephone kiosks in the area for false calls. Top of the list is in Banff, from the phone box on Addison Crescent. Other regular sources are the telephone kiosks at Fife Street in Macduff, Banff swimming pool, Gordon Crescent in Portsoy and the Square in Turriff. Last year 237 of these silent calls were made from phone boxes or domestic phones in our area. The figures do not include hoax calls where callers try to misdirect the emergency services, which is an even more serious offence.
Youngsters should realise that all emergency calls are recorded and will be traced if necessary. In addition, operators receiving one of these calls will phone the number back a few minutes later. This time it is often a parent or other adult who answers the phone, and they will be advised that the false call came from their number. But this all takes time - time which could be precious when a real 999 call comes through. Parents should also be aware that the police will visit their home if false calls are repeatedly made from their house.
The police believe that calls made from the home are often made by the youngest children, while older ones are inclined to make the nuisance calls from telephone boxes. Police are putting up warning posters in the worst affected kiosks, and will also leaflet houses in the areas round about.
PC Moar says that 'accidental' 999 calls are sometimes made by very young toddlers playing with the phone, and asks parents to consider placing the phone out of reach of the youngest children. He adds:
"But it is important that older children know when and how to use the emergency number, and parents have to educate them in its proper use."
Chairman of the Banff and District Community Safety Group, Robbie Robinson, said:
"The safety group is right behind this issue, and we are supporting the police by providing the finished posters.
"We are aware of the dangers of 999 misuse; it could endanger peoples' lives, and it stretches police resources."