POLICE in County Durham have saved £76,000 thanks to a new hoax call screening system.
The constabulary introduced a hoax call challenge policy at the end of 2010, which has now screened out more than 4,000 hoax calls.
The policy, based on similar schemes used by the other emergency services, involves the operator telling the caller that the call is being recorded, and that they could be prosecuted if the call turns out to be a hoax.
Those calling from a mobile who are suspected as hoaxers are also warned their phones could be disconnected if they hoax again.
Staff from the communication centre created the scheme after a problem-solving workshop, aiming to increase the quality of service and tackle key issues.
Sergeant Andy Reeves said: “We calculated each deployment was costing £19 in terms of fuel and officer time.
“That may not sound much, but multiplied across any given year it was adding up to a waste of resources which could have been applied elsewhere.
“Our staff make a professional assessment of each call they deal with, and if they have serious doubts they implement the challenge.”
Every day, the force takes around 900 calls on the non-emergency 101 phone number, and around 230 received through 999.
He added: “By cutting 4,000 wasted deployments, we have made an estimated £76,000 worth of savings. This has prevented officers making unnecessary journeys, allowed us to make better use of our resources and enabled staff in the comms centre to deal more effectively with genuine emergencies and other incidents.”