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Don't Misuse the 999 Line

  • Is it safe to eat an out of date yoghurt?
  • I’ve been followed home by a cat
  • My son is in police custody and we want to know where he has put the TV remote control
  • I’ve got no credit on my phone, can you tell my partner I’m stuck in traffic
  • I need to know what the time is

Believe it or not, these were all 999 calls made to Northamptonshire Police.

Around 120,000 999 calls were made to Northamptonshire Police last year and while most were about serious emergencies, a constant average of around 24 percent were not appropriate, and about 13 percent were deliberate hoax or nuisance calls.

Mick Stamper, who leads the Force Control Room, is urging people to make sure that they use the 999-line appropriately, as they could be blocking the call of someone who is in a life or death situation.

It can be hard to judge what is or is not an emergency, but in general, you should call 999 if:

  • Someone’s life is at risk or someone is being physically threatened
  • When a crime is in progress or if the offenders are still nearby
  • There is a road traffic collision causing personal injury or danger

Deliberate hoaxers can and will be traced – police can see a number from which a call is made and will call it back!

When should I dial 999?

The 999 number should only be used for real emergencies - when life is at risk, when you see a crime in progress or there is a traffic incident involving personal injury or danger. All 999 calls go direct to the Control Room and are dealt with on a separate priority system, so that calls which are not true emergencies could cause a delay in getting help in some other life-threatening situation.

So what is a real emergency?

If you, or someone else, is being attacked or someone is putting their own or another's life in danger DIAL 999 IMMEDIATELY.

For example: If you are being violently attacked by another person, if you see a street robbery, if you notice someone on top of a high building who is obviously disturbed and could jump, if you see a child being abducted or approached by a stranger in very suspicious circumstances, if you can see one person violently attacking another, then these are all TRUE emergencies which need police assistance as soon as possible.


If you see an incident and then later realise that what you saw might have been suspicious - for example some stranger hanging around in your street or looking at vehicles - that is not a true emergency. You should inform the police, but not via the 999 system. Telephone 101 instead.

If you see a crime in progress DIAL 999 IMMEDIATELY.

For example: You may return to your home to find intruders inside, you may see a neighbour's house being broken into, you may see masked men going into a shop and suspect a robbery is in progress. These are TRUE emergencies and require immediate police intervention.


If a crime has already happened, for example you return home from a holiday to find your home has been burgled, or you return from a country walk to find your car has been broken into, or you find out after the event that some other crime has taken place, these are not true emergencies. Immediate police attendance is not required, so please inform the police by ringing 101 and do not dial 999.

If you see a road traffic incident happen where injuries are sustained or there is danger to other road users - for example on the motorway - or if you are involved in a serious road accident causing injuries or danger, DIAL 999 IMMEDIATELY.


If you witness a road traffic incident in which there are no injuries or danger involved, and you have information you think the police know about, please call in on 101 and do not ring 999.


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