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101 or 999 – which one should you call?

999 is a number that everyone knows, children from a young age are taught to call 999 if there is an emergency, but do you know when you should call 101 instead? Did you know you can report a crime using our website?

Every year we receive over 200,000 999 calls, but last year 1 in 5 of the calls weren’t emergency calls. In fact last year 85 calls a day were classified as ‘inappropriate use of 999’ and 37 calls a day should have been directed to another agency. We get calls asking for taxi numbers, opening hours of the local convenience store and over Christmas we even had a call to 999 from someone reporting a queue jumper in the Santa Grotto.

101 or 999?

Often when people panic they remember the 999 number and call it. We are here 24/7 365 days a year to help you, but if it’s identified as being a non-emergency then you may have to wait for another operator. We need to free up the 999 lines as there could be a life or death emergency waiting to get through.

Advice for calling 999:

  • call when it’s an emergency
  • a crime is in progress
  • someone suspected of a crime is nearby
  • when there is danger to life
  • when violence is being used or threatened

If you don’t need an emergency response, then you should call 101 or use our online reporting form on our website. This could be to report a crime or to seek advice, for example your car has been stolen, your property has been damaged or you suspect drug use or dealing in your neighbourhood. Calls to 101 incur a 15p charge but this is a flat fee for the entirety of the call [mobiles included]

101 or 999 Inforgraphic

Do you think you know when to call 999 or 101? Take our quiz and see how you do!

Tweet us at @ASPolice with your score

Situation 1

It's not an emergency but a man's just knocked on my door saying that there has been a problem with the water pressure and he needs to check my pressure... He has no ID and I saw on TV that there have been a lot of distraction burglaries in this area. I have seen him walking towards my neighbour's houses down the street.

Situation 2

The traffic is not moving, I think that there is a problem with the traffic lights.

Situation 3

Drunks are fighting outside your home, or even throwing stones at windows, and you feel frightened.

Situation 4

There is an accident on the motorway.

Situation 5

Someone has stolen my mobile phone.

Situation 6

There is a car parked on double yellow lines or parked outside my house.

Situation 7

My husband has not returned from work, he is normally home by now.

Situation 8

You need the number of a local Indian restaurant.