In order to prevent children from misusing our emergency phone lines this summer, Cambridgeshire Constabulary are urging parents and carers to educate young people about the dangers of hoax calling.
During the summer holidays in 2022, 999 calls to the police increased by 10.5% across Cambridgeshire. On top of this increase, we also tend to see an increase in hoax calls to the emergency line, where children and young people are identified as being responsible.
This adds to the demand placed on our emergency call handlers, who work around the clock to ensure the safety of residents across Cambridgeshire.
Whilst we appreciate that the majority of children enjoy time off school being safe and responsible, some think that prank calling the police on the emergency line is a harmless joke. This is not the case.
Hoax calls are treated very seriously and those responsible are warned that misuse of the emergency line can cost lives.
If our 999 operators are busy dealing with a hoax caller, they could be prevented from answering a genuine call, which in some instances could be a life-or-death situation. Hoax calls cost lives and are a waste of valuable resources.
Not only that, but it is an offence to make a malicious or hoax call to the emergency services. Hoax callers could face a maximum penalty of up to six months in prison or a fine of £5,000. All calls to the emergency services are recorded and we can always trace the number, even if the call is made from a withheld number or a public phone box.
If your friend or family member needed to contact the police in an emergency, think how you would feel if they were unable to get assistance because the operator had been busy on a hoax call.
This is why it’s NO joke to hoax.
Children need educating about the 999 system and what impact prank calls can have, which is why we are appealing to parents, carers and family members to help us raise awareness about the risks involved with hoax calling the emergency line.
Top tips for parents / carers:
Many children see prank calls to the police as a harmless joke. It is important that we educate children about the consequences of their actions, making sure they understand making hoax calls to the police is dangerous. Explain that by making just one hoax call to the police, they are endangering other people’s lives as people in genuine emergency situations may be denied help due to their prank call taking up an operator's time.
Hoax calls are unacceptable and could lead to hefty fines and even prison time.
Explain and show them how to call the police if they do genuinely need assistance. A child knowing when and how to contact the police can also save lives. Remind them about the difference between using 999 for emergencies, and 101 for non-emergencies, and ensure they understand what is classified as an ‘emergency’.
Further explain what they should do if they call 999 by mistake (speak to an operator and explain that the call was an accident – if you do not do this, it will be assumed that there is an emergency and the operator will spend time trying to ensure your safety).
Encourage children to report people / peers if they do make hoax calls to the police. They can do this by speaking to a web chat operator on our website (just click the green chat icon in the corner of the screen to start a chat).
Encourage and help children to plan fun and productive activities on set days during the school holidays to avoid boredom which in some cases can lead to antisocial behaviour / hoax calls. See below for a list of activities available to do across the county.
Ensure you know where your child / children are going to be, what they are doing, and make sure they understand what you expect of them during the school holidays.
Keeping children busy
Boredom can often lead to children getting into trouble. We believe that by keeping children busy with productive and fun activities, they are less likely to resort to hoax calling. Here are some ideas of what they could get up to this summer.
Peterborough Lido Outdoor Swimming Pool
Boat Hire at the Embankment
Adventure Rutland Paddleboarding
Ferrymeadows (cycling, walking, picnics)
Bounce trampoline park at Bretton
Hollywood Bowl bowling
Ice skating at Planet Ice
Solve The City – Clue The Looking Glass – City Adventure Game
Ice Skating at Cambridge Ice Arena
Clip n Climb Cambridge
Visit Milton Country Park
Pottery painting at Crafty Monkey in St Neots
Visit the lido, tennis courts, skate park and table tennis tables at Jesus Green
Browse the city’s shops in the Grand Arcade or Grafton Centre
Boat hire on the River Ouse
Grafham Water (cycling, walking, picnics)
Hinchingbrooke Country Park (cycling, walking, picnics)
Get involved with Hinchingbrooke House Performing Arts Theatre
Swimming at One Leisure pool
Hoax call examples
Here we have shared just a few examples of some of the real calls we have received from young children to highlight and demonstrate the issue we are facing.