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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 18:17 GMT
Summer launch for 101 crime line
Man making telephone call
The new number would allow people to report low-level crimes
People wanting to complain about drug dealing, vandalism and other low-level crime will soon be calling 101 instead of 999, the Home Office has said.

Minister Hazel Blears said the Single Non-Emergency Number (Snen) would "strengthen community engagement".

The scheme, designed to ease pressure on the 999 system, will be piloted in five areas in the summer and rolled out across England and Wales by 2008.

Callers to 101 will be charged a flat fee of 10p from mobiles and landlines.

Hampshire, Northumbria, Cardiff, Sheffield, and Leicester and Rutland County will pilot the scheme.

Faster service

Ms Blears said 10 million 999 calls had been made in 2004, of which 70% were not emergencies.

I'm in Margate at the train station and I think my last train has gone. Do you know if there's another train coming at all?
Did anyone pick up a 20 note and hand it in to you?
There's no emergency except there's no buses
My wife left me two salmon sandwiches that were left over from last night. I'm sat in the chair and she won't put any food out

She said the new number would allow 999 services to be faster and more efficient.

"It is an attempt to make sure that the police deal with what they should be dealing with, rather than looking at things like fly tipping," she said.

Ministers want to see the new number used to report anti-social behaviour including noisy neighbours, abandoned vehicles, drunken people in public places and defective street lighting.

But 101 operators will be able to transfer calls to 999 if the incident needs an emergency response.

Senior police officers welcomed the move, saying it would reduce misuse of the current 999 number.

In recent years, police forces and ambulance services have launched campaigns in an attempt to prevent unnecessary 999 calls.

Cleveland police has said one in 10 of its 100,000 emergency calls every year is "completely inappropriate".

Examples given by the force included a man reporting an electrical fault as a football match was about to start, and calls to check bus times and asking for help with a puncture.

Hear some non-emergency calls made to the 999 service

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