Listen: ‘Cat ate my bacon’, ‘Noisy washing machine’ and other outlandish 999 calls made to West Yorkshire Police
A demand for a cat to be arrested for eating bacon, a call for action over a noisy washing machine and a complaint about an unpleasant takeaway.
This audio clip includes some of the hundreds of time-wasting 999 calls made to West Yorkshire Police every last year.
In one example, the caller can be heard telling the call handler that his girlfriend’s cat has eaten his bacon adding: “I want to press charges.”
After being asked “Against who? Your girlfriend or the cat?”, he adds: “Both of them.”
Police released details of the call – and a number of other unbelievable requests – as the force experiences a summer spike in demand for emergency service.
Tom Donahoe, who heads a team of 200 staff at the customer contact centre based in Wakefield, said: “Someone rang us at two in the morning to ask us who the actor was that played Magnum P.I.
“It was driving him mad, he was with his friends and couldn’t think of the answer, so he rang the police.”
He added : “The serious point is that, a lot of the time we’re talking about a matter of seconds between us being able to get to a genuine emergency effectively and not being able to and therefore having people’s lives put at risk.”
The customer contact centre gets about 1,000 999 calls a day as well as up to 3,000 calls to the non-emergency 101 service.
But Mr Donahoe said during the summer it was receiving up to 4,500 calls a day – levels similar to the busy new year period. He added that cutbacks to council services were having an impact.
“During the summer we get a lot of alcohol-related calls,” he said. “People aren’t necessarily thinking clearly when they’ve had a drink or two and if something goes wrong their first port of call is the police, which can be problematic for us and life-threatening for other people trying to get through.”
The centre takes an average of six to nine seconds to answer a 999 call.
But Mr Donahoe said services were being put under strain thanks to cutbacks to other public organisations.
“Calls have risen recently with council services being cut back. For example, we get
a lot of calls because someone has struggled to get through to the council about a noise nuisance issue, we get quite a lot of those.
“As other services are cut back, people get a bit desperate.”
He said the vast majority of 999 calls that didn’t require an emergency response were misguided rather than malicious.
But he added: “If they are repeat calls, and vexatious calls, we will have people arrested.
“We had someone ring us over 100 times in a four-hour period and he was arrested.
“We will robustly pursue people who waste police time and put people’s lives at risk.”
“What we desperately don’t want to do is put someone off ringing us in a genuine emergency and our mantra is that we’ll deal with it politely and professionally, whatever the call.”