Superintendent Bob Chapman, who runs South Yorkshire Police’s communications department, said there were 700 more calls to the force last weekend compared to the week before – leaving people stuck in queues waiting to speak to a call handler.
He said it was ‘an incredible increase in demand’ but said many were calls were for non-police matters, including one caller reporting a lost passport and another who complained about repairs not being carried out to their council house.
Supt Chapman has now urged callers to think twice before dialling 101. He said: “It’s not clear why last weekend was so busy, but we took over 700 more calls last weekend than the weekend before, or the same weekend last year. That’s an incredible increase in demand on a weekend, when our demand tends to be higher anyway. “As we approach the summertime, we do expect demand on our call handlers to increase, but what is incredibly frustrating is that many of the calls we receive to 101 are not police matters. “This includes one person who contacted 101 to report a lost passport. Another called 101 to complain that their local council wasn’t coming out to repair their house. “These are two very real examples of the types of calls we receive via 101. This ties up our lines, meaning people with legitimate concerns are waiting longer. This isn’t the service we want to provide to the public and I’m asking everyone out there to think before they make that call.”
He added: “With that said, I want to assure everyone that if you need the police, if you need to report a crime, then we are here for you 24/7, 365 days a year.
“Where we need your help is with considering whether you need to call 101 at all. “There are other ways to get in touch – you can report certain crimes online, as well as reporting other incidents, submitting complaints, and enquiring about lost and found property. “If a crime is in progress or a life is at risk, then please call 999. However, don’t view 999 as an alternative to 101 – the emergency number is for precisely that - emergencies.
“I’m sure as a member of the public, you want to know that if you or a loved one needs 999 assistance, the lines are not busy with people calling us about non-urgent matters. “Some of the calls we’ve received to 999 include someone complaining about their wi-fi not working, or someone complaining about an incorrect takeaway order. These types of calls really do beggar belief, they’re not emergencies and they take our time away from those who need it most.”