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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 15:22 GMT
Police go American for 999 calls
Police woman answers call
Police say 1 in ten 999 calls are non emergencies
South Wales Police are to adopt an American-style of answering 999 calls in a bid to cut-off time wasters.

The force said recently a woman called 999 because she did not have 1 for a supermarket trolley and one in 10 999 calls it received were not emergencies.

The greeting is changing from "South Wales Police how can I help" to "South Wales Police what is your emergency?"

Experts at Cardiff University say it may make people think more carefully about what their actual emergency is.

To reduce the number of non-urgent calls, control room staff will answer 999s in the same way as their contemporaries in many US police departments including New York and San Diego.

South Wales Police control rooms saw emergency calls rise by approximately a third more than normal over Christmas and the New Year.

"Can you come round and take my mother-in-law away? She has been here for 18 days"
"My husband has the TV remote and won't let me watch EastEnders
"Can you arrest my boyfriend? He has put my hamster out in the rain"
Source: South Wales Police

The switch has been welcomed by Cardiff University researchers Professor Martin Innes of the Universities Police Science Institute and Dr Frances Rock of the Centre for Language and Communication

They are investigating the change as part of a long-term research project to improve telephone contact between the force and the public.

Dr Rock said: "This is an exciting development which is supported by research evidence and we are looking forward to studying the effects of the revised wording in South Wales

"We hope our studies will improve the working lives of people who answer and respond to calls and will improve the experience of members of the public who call South Wales Police.

"Changing how calls are answered by the police has a real potential to improve how police interact with people who need their help."

The change in how 999 calls are answered is one of the first major changes introduced by Supt Kevin O'Neill, who is the new divisional commander for communication.

When to dial 999
A crime is in progress
Violence is being used
An offender has recently been disturbed
There is a road accident where someone is injured or the road is blocked
Source: South Wales Police

He said: "For many years we have been trying to educate the public on what is or isn't a 999 call but one in 10 calls made to South Wales Police are still inappropriate or a deliberate misuse of the system."

Supt O'Neill said he hoped the new approach would be a "simple but hopefully effective" way of answering calls.

"Calling 999 with an unnecessary non-emergency call could block a genuine call for vital seconds and put lives at risk.

"We would ask people to work with us so our operators are free to help callers who do need urgent help."

Hear a recreated 999 call in which a woman asks for help with a kitten

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