A CAMPAIGN has been launched by police calling for people to only use the 999 line for ‘real’ emergencies.

West Midlands Police has started the initiative in response to its battle against record high call numbers.

The force is reaching out to members of the public across social media with a plea not to tie-up call handlers with ‘trivial’ enquiries, using the mantra “if it’s not 999…search WMP Online” – where people can find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions, as well as report low-level crimes, such as criminal damage and theft.

The campaign comes just weeks after the regional forces received the highest daily total of 999 calls in its history – a total of 3,276 were received on Saturday July 7, which is up 40 per cent on the 24-hour average.

However, West Midlands Police say many of those calls were not life or death emergencies or from people reporting crimes in progress.

Some recent 999 calls have included people reporting an injured duck on the canal network, a wife snoring loudly, and a teenager asking a call handler to contact his mum as he had run out of phone credit.

As part of the campaign, West Midlands Police is releasing a week-long series of videos in which some of its call handlers discuss the pressures of the job, memorable calls, and times they’ve had to bite their lip.

Lyndsey Swallow, head of contact handling at WMP, said: “The 999 service is precious. It should be reserved for emergency incidents, when people are in danger, or to report crimes in progress.

“We’re here to help and protect the public − but sometimes we can’t get to people as quickly as we’d like because lines are being clogged up with less serious issues or things that couldn’t possibly be considered a police matter.

“If it’s not an emergency then people can call us on 101 number − but many of the queries we get on that number could be satisfied with a simple internet search.

“WMP Online now has a wealth of information and advice on a range of issues and should be a first port of call for people if their call isn’t urgent − and lower level crimes like thefts and criminal damage can now be reported online as well.”

Call handler Olivia, one of those taking part in the video campaign, recently marked one year with West Midlands Police.

She said: “It’s constant at the moment − the highest demand I’ve ever seen − and I’d say I’m answering up to 50 calls a day. There can at times be tens of calls in the queue on the 101 number and that’s why we’d advise people to go online.

“It’s a pressurised job but really varied; you’re always on your toes as you never know who you’ll pick up the phone to next.

“I once spoke to a nine-year-old girl who called to say she was being abused by her stepdad: she was really brave and gave a very articulate account of what was happening, which of course helps the investigation team.

“And another time I was on the phone to a man who’d suffered a cardiac arrest; I alerted ambulance colleagues and kept him talking but he died moments later. I just hope I was able to offer him some comfort.”

Search WMP Online for help and advice on a range of subjects, while the answers to questions could also be found on the force’s website without the need for calling.