More than 1,700 hoax calls have been made from Hyndburn to Lancashire Police in the last five years, it’s been revealed.
The figures – obtained by the Observer under the Freedom of Information Act – have been branded ‘despicable’ by police chiefs and community members.
They say those who make the calls are risking lives and stretching limited police resources at a time of funding cutbacks.
Joyce Plummer, who works with the police through the Community Alcohol Network, said those responsible should be ‘severely punished’.
She said: “It’s wasting valuable time and means they are dealing with these hoax calls instead of something potentially far more serious.
“It could put other people’s lives in danger and definitely should be punished quite severely.”
The damning figures showhundreds of hoax calls ayear were made from Hyndburn in the five years to August 2013. At their peak there were as many as 47 calls in a single month.
Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, said the number of malicious calls was far too high.
He said: “It is disappointing to see there are still a substantial number of people in the area who are prepared to put people’s lives at risk by making hoax 999 calls.
“Malicious calls cost all the emergency services vital time and resources – and at a time when funding is being cut so drastically it is time and resources which the police cannot afford to waste. Every malicious call is one malicious call too many, and takes police staff away from doing the job they should be doing and protecting and helping the people of Lancashire.”
A Lancashire Police spokesman warned people caught abusing the 999 services could be fined, cut off from their network provider or sent to prison for repeat offending.
He said: “The 999 service exists for people to report emergency incidents to the emergency services, for the police it could be a crime in progress or where life or serious injury is at risk. People using this service for any other reason is simply unacceptable and can delay the response to a real emergency.
“While our operators are dealing with these types of calls, people in genuine need of emergency help may be trying to get through.
“At best, these irresponsible calls are wasting valuable time but at the very worst, they could cost lives.”
The number of hoax calls peaked at 458 in 2009, and there were 286 last year.