Fake 911 calls aren't cheap

Last year, seven and a half million emergency calls were made to the police in Britain. But fewer than a quarter of them turned out to be real emergencies, and many were pranks or fakes. Some were just plain stupid.


Like the caller to Cornwall Police in South West England who wanted them to investigate why his order for a home delivery Chinese meal was 45 minutes late. Perhaps they could prosecute the restaurant, he suggested.

Leicestershire Police in the English Midlands regularly answer the phone to a man claiming he is our Prime Minister David Cameron, complaining that he is locked inside 10 Downing Street. Harmless but a total waste of time - the caller, that is, not the Prime Minister.

A few months back Cambridgeshire Police received 756 silent emergency calls from the same 18 year old girl during a single weekend. At her trial she said she didn't know why she'd done it, but she'd done it many times before. Not as many times as Mr David Mason from Bolton in the North-West - he's earned the title of Britain's worst hoaxer, calling the police for the past 40 years until they put him in jail. Police reckon his fake calls cost them 2 million dollars.

Such crazy cases are actually an international problem. But the emergency services over here are beginning to use one deterrent that seems to work - by making time wasters pay. So, next time we're locked out of our house, we'll think twice before calling the emergency services.

English law has been changed to allow the police to levy a fat fee if you ask for their help and it isn't a real crisis. And when one of our loveable cats decides to do what cats often do - climb up a tree and get stuck there - we won't be ringing West Midlands Fire service, unless we've just won the lottery. They will certainly send out one of their big red fire trucks with a ladder on top and several strong men, but it will cost at least 700 dollars an hour to rescue little Tiddles. And then we might need to call an ambulance once we see the bill.

This is Ed Boyle for CBS News in London.

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