WEST Midlands Police today issued a warning to members of the public about the serious consequences of making fake calls to the emergency services.

Between September 2008 and August 2009, West Midlands Police recorded a total of 17,153 hoax calls, many of them the result of young people playing pranks or individuals wasting police time with false crime reports.

Police today reminded members of the public that making fake calls to the emergency services is illegal and puts people’s lives at risk.

Sgt Sally Marsh, from West Midlands Police, said: “Hoax calls are extremely dangerous because while emergency services are attending the fake call, there could be a genuine life-threatening emergency taking place where they are desperately needed.

“We do get a lot of calls from young people playing pranks and we would urge parents to educate their children about the consequences of doing this.”

In one incident in May, a 15-year-old boy from Wolverhampton phoned police claiming he had been threatened by a man with a gun.

Various resources, including firearms teams, traffic officers and police dogs were deployed, only to discover the call was a hoax.

The teenager was arrested at the scene and received a six month conditional discharge for making nuisance phone calls.

Sgt Marsh added: “Hoax callers need to think how they would feel if a member of their family was unable to get the help they required because the police, fire or ambulance services had been called away on a hoax call.

“Making fake 999 calls is a criminal offence and could result in a fine, criminal record or even a prison sentence.

“All calls to the emergency services are recorded and we can always trace the number, even if the call was made from a mobile or the number withheld. Anyone found to be making this type of call could face prosecution.”

Members of the public are reminded to only dial 999 if there is a threat to life or a genuine crime in progress. Non-emergency calls and enquiries should be directed to West Midlands Police central switchboard number 0845 113 5000.