POLICE have seen a surge in 999 and 101 calls since lockdown restrictions ended - and many are hoaxes or non-urgent.

Call handlers are often frustrated by time-wasting pranks or reports which should not have been made on the emergency line  and give them less time to deal with actual emergencies.

Calls to the 999 service are answered first by BT operators and then passed to the emergency service the caller requests. Demand on the service has been increasing in recent months.

The average number of calls connected to police this month is 34,000 a day compared to 29,500 in the same period last year. Only around 20-25 per cent of these calls will be deemed to require an immediate emergency response from police.

Recent unnecessary calls to police on 999 include from a man who was being followed home by a cat, a man asking to speak to Sting, the lead singer of The Police, about a broken vinyl and a woman asking when her next train would be.

Abuse of the service can result in criminal action. A man has recently been charged for calling 999 49 times in the space of six hours.

The force provided a rare peek behind the scenes of its control centre on Saturday while urging people to use the wiltshire.police.uk website if they need to report concerns which do not require an immediate response.

Chief inspector Doug Downing said: "Demand is increasing incredibly since restrictions lifted, some of it is unprecedented. This is a volatile, complex operating period and a new challenge.

"If you can picture it, it's happened - people called 999 to get a taxi, report lost property or get an update on their case. Think before you dial.

"We still want to help the vulnerable but reduce demand on an organisation that's constantly under pressure to deliver a high-quality service to the public.

"It's not just stretching our resources but the resources of our partner organisations as well."

Lisa Brewer has been a call handler for the force for almost three years.

She said: “Nuisance calls usually involve things like ‘my neighbour has looked at me funny’ or ‘they’ve called me names on social media’, which isn’t very nice but equally, it isn’t a police matter, we’ve got no control over social media.

“They will call and say ‘they’ve not been very nice to me’ and sometimes that’s a police matter but quite often, we get a lot of calls where it is nothing the police can deal with.”

Mr Downing added: "I'm incredibly proud of our brilliant team who have risen to the challenge of the pandemic and demonstrate vast amounts of patience and perseverance.

"We have increased our numbers and focused on frontline resources. We are constantly looking at how we can be more efficient and effective, doing more with less.

"We'd like to do this social media takeover again with other parts of the organisation which are under just as much pressure - watch this space."