A quarter of Britons would phone 999 to report graffiti but six per cent would not if they witnessed a pensioner being mugged, a new survey has shown.
According to research carried out by pollsters YouGov on behalf of ntl:Telewest Business, about 80 per cent of calls to the national emergency number are not considered as emergencies by police.
The study also highlights confusion among many Britons about exactly when to call 999, with half not knowing a local non-emergency number and three per cent believing they knew a national non-emergency number – which does not yet exist.
Of those questioned last month, 68 per cent said they would call 999 if they saw drug-related antisocial behaviour, 44 per cent would report drunken behaviour in public and more than one in ten Britons believes 999 is the place to report a noisy neighbour.
Worryingly, six per cent of Britons would not dial 999 to report the mugging of a pensioner, while that increased to one in seven among 18- to 24-year-olds.
Christopher Small, director of public sector at ntl:Telewest Business, said: "These results should prove an eyeopener for police forces and the public alike.
"With so many man-hours at stake and pressure to increase efficiency from central government it is vital that the public do their best to understand what constitutes an emergency and what doesn't.
"But the onus should lie with the police to educate the public about the availability of non-emergency numbers in their areas. And to make sure these numbers are appropriately maintained by support staff and modern technology."
The government is currently trialling a single non-emergency number (SNEN) in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Cardiff, Sheffield, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, Leicester and Rutland with a national rollout expected in late 2007.
Residents of the trial areas have been asked to call 101 for non-emergencies but should still ring 999 "when there is immediate danger or you witness a crime taking place", according to Home Office advice.
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