Monday, March 02, 2009

999 - "only for life and death calls"?

This was the sequence of events:

6.50pm: Son and I returned from his 'Sung Vespers' service at school chapel. I noticed that a small car was parked just left of our boundary fence. There were four young people in there. I've lived long enough in this part of the world to know not to stare too hard at strangers. We just sort of averted our gaze and walked on and hurried into our house.

c7.20pm: Loud music from the parked car started filtering in through our double-glazed windows. I was busy and ignored it and hoped that it would go away.

7.40pm: Music was getting louder. I looked up the local police station website to see what I should do. It is a nuisance, but not an emergency, so I wanted to find a non-999 number to ring. I didn't spot it, but spotted an email form I could use. I filled it in, expecting answers "within three days" as published. As I wrote the folk started tooting their horn as well. Things were getting a bit raucous (spelling?).

I then went to another section of the website and found the non-emergency number and rang it. I was put "in a queue". I waited. And waited. And waited.

Looking out of the window I saw that two of these young people were out of their car and on our premises. I was starting to shake as I was getting nervous.

Husband interrupted, "Who are you calling?"

Me: The non-emergency number.

Him: Call 999.

So I did. When I got to speak to an officer I was shaking even more. By this time I suspected that they were smoking something illegal.

Told the officer the information (above). The noise was getting louder as the four got less inhibited.

Do you have their registration number? No, I'm too scared to go out to look.

Are you sure they are smoking something illegal? No, but they are smoking something.

They are smoking something, but it could be cigarettes? Yes. (If I went out for a sniff I could usually tell having lived in Amsterdam for a year. But I felt unsafe and very nervous.)

You say they were on your premises, what do you mean? They had come onto my front drive and messing about.

OK, we'll get someone to pop round to check.

This was now past 8pm.

Meanwhile a kind person on the Met Police website has replied to say "this is a non-emergency, you could call this 0300 number ..." I replied to say, "Actually I had already called 999 because they had entered my premises ..." This person later replied again to say the 999 number is "only for life and death calls".

We were two happy taxpayers because a patrol car did pull up. I watched from my darkened bedroom as the police officers searched the individuals and the car. You could tell one or two in the group were not very happy at all as someone threw a plastic bottle onto the road. The male officer picked it up and put it on the roof of their car. (We found even more rubbish on the kerb early this morning.)

Eventually they dispersed the group. Don't know exactly why the folk were told to clear off but the car was locked up and left there. The police left. The little car was moved by the morning.

My suspicions are (1) the driver was too drunk to drive and/or (2) the car was not properly insured. At this point I felt vindicated that the police saw fit that these people were not allowed to drive the car away.

Was I right to call the police over something so trivial? Noisy young people outside your house smoking and drinking and making a racket? Is it a "life and death" situation that warranted police attention?

In normal circumstances, I would say the answer is "no". But would it be "life and death" if these young people were allowed to drive off, hit a tree, kill someone, themselves perhaps, or worse, the sole breadwinner of a family of five returning from an afternoon shift? Would I sleep better at night knowing that I didn't bother the police with a "nuisance" complaint only to "free them up" to deal with the consequences of my non-action?

What if there was damage to my property and my husband went charging out to remonstrate with them, gets punched, knocked his head onto the hard ground and [you fill in the details, there's enough news of this nature lately] ... would that be "life and death" enough for the police?

Should the police be doing things to prevent a "life and death" situation rather than mop up the spills, clean up the operation after someone has, tragically, died?

I personally feel that most police officers would rather err on the side of caution and prevent unnecessary tragedies that could be avoided simply by defusing the situation.

What do you think?

Back to Organic-Ally. Become our fan on Facebook.

No comments: