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Police appeal over silent 999 calls

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Gloucestershire Police is asking anyone who calls them accidentally on 999 to let the operator know they are safe before hanging up.

Emergency calls to the Constabulary have been increasing month on month since February, when just over 7000 calls were made. In May, nearly 10,000 calls were received, a rise of 28%. 

And the number of abandoned or hoax calls, which will include silent calls, increased from just over 7000 between June and November 2022 to just over 10,000 between December 2022 and May 2023.

A silent call may be where the person making the call is not aware they have done so, and the operator cannot hear anyone on the line.  

Chief Superintendent Jane Probert said: “If you accidentally dial 999, then we ask that you stay on the line and let the operator know you didn’t mean to call and don’t need assistance.  

“Silent calls to 999 are not ignored because they could have been made by someone who needs help but can’t talk. Our call handlers will need to spend valuable time trying to call you back to check whether you are okay.”  

Nationally, all emergency services are currently experiencing record high 999 call volumes, which is for a number of reasons, but it is believed that there has been a significant impact as a result of an update to Android smartphones.  

The update, which was issued between October 2022 and February 2023, added a new SOS emergency function for devices to call 999 through the power button being pressed five times or more on devices but this seems to have inadvertently caused an increase in silent calls. 

If you have an Android phone, you can check your emergency settings to turn off the functionality added in the latest update, if you wish to.  

Go to ‘Settings’ then ‘Safety and Emergency’ and slide the button which says ‘Emergency SOS’ to switch the functionality off.  

As always, if a crime is in progress or if there is an immediate risk to person or property, always dial 999.  

If a crime is not in progress, then please consider reporting the incident online via our website www.gloucestershire.police.uk in the first instance. Alternatively, you can call 101.

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