Police say they are being swamped with non-emergency calls to triple-0, including complaints about bins being knocked over and requests to know the starting times of AFL matches.
Up to 20 per cent of the more than 280,000 triple-0 calls in the past 12 months were for non-emergencies, including thousands of hoax and nuisance calls that tied up operators and put people in genuine need of police assistance at risk.
One man, who police say has mental health issues, has made more than 5000 hoax and nuisance calls since 2015.
Supt Ricky Chadwick said non-emergency calls included accidental and no-voice calls, such as pocket dials, but there were still too many cases of “weird and wacky” callers wasting police resources.
“The impact of nuisance calls or non-emergencies is significant,” he said.
“A person that does have a legitimate emergency may well have to be waiting that little bit longer to have their needs met.”
Supt Chadwick said examples of the types of calls police emergency operators had to deal with included complaints about leaking taps, bins that were knocked over, power outages and what time the footy was on.
“We have a lot of people ring up for low-level things that really are not police-related,” he said. “Almost everything you could imagine our triple-0 operators get, unfortunately.
“We have the ability to follow up on some of them, certainly people who are repeatedly deliberately ringing triple-0 and causing a nuisance.
“People need to be mindful, certainly if you are doing it deliberately for a laugh, you run the risk of a criminal record.
“We understand that from time to time there are going to be (examples like) elderly people, with noises in the night that are no doubt terrifying them, and we don’t want to discourage people calling the police.”
“But the lower level stuff like very minor petty theft in the past couple days, that’s not what triple-0 is for.”
Supt Chadwick said despite dealing with a large volume of non-emergency calls, police were hitting a target of answering 95 per cent of triple-0 calls within 20 seconds.
“Our call-takers are well trained and very experienced and when it is identified that it is not an emergency, they will move them off the triple-0 line to free that up,” he said.
“We are pretty comfortable that our call-takers are meeting the demands of the public.”
Sgt Graeme Tysoe, a supervisor at the Police Assistance Centre in Midland, said the first thing people should do when calling triple-0 is confirm their location or address. “People assume we know where they are — we don’t,” he said.
“We want them to then speak calmly and clearly and tell us what the problem is in a few words or less. We will ask questions to value-add to that.
“We need them to calmly tell us where the problem is and what the problem is, so we can triage it and get the people there at the highest priority.”
To report non-emergencies to police, call 131 444.