Sharp Drop in London Hoax Fire Calls

The London Fire Brigade cites the traceability of mobile phone numbers for the 48 percent decline since 2007.

Far fewer callers are making hoax fire calls to the London Fire Brigade’s 999 control center these days, and the near-universal usage of mobile phones is the reason why, brigade officials say. Their report indicates hoax calls have dropped by 48 percent since 2007.

During 2012/13, the brigade received 7,013 hoax calls and dispatched fire engines for 1,726 of them, which cost taxpayers the equivalent of more than $780,000. During 2006/7, 13,169 hoax calls were received and engines were dispatched on 3,403 of them.

Control officers are now trained to challenge suspicious calls, and fire engines are no longer mobilized in response to abandoned calls from phone boxes. Brigade officials believe the increase in children with mobile phones caused the drop in hoax calls, citing a recent survey that indicates the average British child gets his or her first phone a few months before turning 12, and nearly 10 percent of British children have a phone by age five.

"Hoax calls were easier when kids could just pop into a phone box, but now everyone has mobile phones and the numbers are traceable. It's a little less tempting when you know that the people you're hoaxing have your number," Assistant Commissioner Richard Chandler said.

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