Villagers Told To ‘Exaggerate 999 Calls For Swift Response’

A row blew up last night after victims of crime were told to exaggerate their calls for help in a bid to get a faster response from the police. The advice came from a Norfolk Police Authority member amid growing fears that people living in outlying rural areas of East Anglia were being let down. Outspoken John Perry-Warnes told a council meeting that it was vital to “exaggerate” details of crimes to trigger a speedier police reaction.

He said last night: “I fully stand by what I said. I do not think my view is at all unreasonable.”

Mr Perry-Warnes admitted his police colleagues would “not be very happy” with his call but insisted he was standing four-square behind vulnerable villagers.

The Norfolk county and North Norfolk district councillor has been a police authority member for several years.

He spoke out in a Wells Town Council meeting where he’d been invited to talk about policing issues in the town.

Councillors told him they had become angry and frustrated over a lack of police presence in the town and the force’s failure to respond.

During his talk to the councillors and members of the public, Mr Perry-Warnes was told repeatedly that calls to police from Wells to report incidents and ask for help had met with little response.

Last night Wells Town Council chairman Gail Robbins said she was amazed at what Mr Perry-Warnes had said.

She said: “I think it is an appalling indictment of the police for Mr Perry-Warnes to make such a comment.”

Outraged town councillor Joe Ellison said Wells was given an “atrocious” service by the police.

He said: “I think the time has come for some real action to be taken.”

“I think we need an open meeting with senior police representatives so that the public can meet them face-to-face and ask questions.”

“But, of course, the police won’t agree to that.”

But Sgt Steve Richardson, whose area covers Wells, hit back at Mr Perry-Warnes.

He said: “Advising people to mislead the police could be dangerous.”

“Members of the public calling the police are asked to give factual and accurate information in calls for police assistance so that the incidents can be prioritised.”

Police authority chairman Stephen Bett said: “The police authority would certainly not advocate such action.”

“It could lead to a ‘crying wolf’ situation and, in prioritising emergency calls, a more important incident could be put behind something people were exaggerating over.”

Mr Bett said the comments were Mr Perry-Warnes’ personal opinion and the authority wasn’t backing him up.

Norfolk Police spokesman Simon Morgan said: “We grade calls depending on urgency, risk and need.”

“This ranges from emergency responses to non-attendance because the matter has been resolved over the phone.”

“It is vitally important that we receive accurate information from the public to allow us to give the appropriate grade.”

“The consequences of not doing so are that our finite resources could be used inappropriately and in the worst case scenario there could be implications for public and officer safety.”