This week’s episode explores the colourful, complex and often troubled lives of the nation’s ‘frequent flyers’ – a nickname given to the small, but significant minority of people in Britain who are regular callers to 999 and repeat users of the emergency services.
Some of these are familiar faces and are on first name terms with police and paramedics.
PC Elliott is at a familiar address, after complaints from neighbours about yet another disturbance. As is frequently the case, 44-year-old Shayne is at the heart of the problems. Part loveable rogue, part public nuisance, Shayne often finds himself under the influence and on the wrong side of the law.
He regularly ends up in custody and always requests his favourite cell-‘room number 16’ on arrival.
PC Elliott said: “Five per cent of the town takes up 95 per cent of your time and you can spend more time with them than you do with your own family. Probably 80 to 90 per cent of what we deal with is social issues, such as alcoholics and mental health – not crime.
“These regulars, they know when they get locked up that they’re going to get food and lodgings – ring a bell and you get a cup of coffee. It’s like a hotel except they don’t pay.”
In Crewe, Detective Constable Andy Knapman is interviewing persistent shoplifter, 29-year-old Michael, who has been arrested many times. This time it’s on suspicion of stealing £40 worth of cheese from a local supermarket, an incident caught on CCTV. Michael no longer sees prison as the deterrent it’s intended to be. He has spent nine consecutive Christmases behind bars.
DC Andy Knapman said: “I think after a few years you move on past frustration. If you thought dealing with the same person was futile and frustrating you wouldn’t be here very long.”
Alcohol-dependency is increasingly a key factor in people’s repeat involvement with the emergency services and this is the case with 50-year-old alcoholic Michaela. Her drinking has seen her lose a successful career, pushed away the majority of her family and permanently damaged her health, leaving her increasingly reliant on a roster of paramedics and police officers, who are regular callers at her home.
They bear witness to the devastating impact alcohol can have and the difficult position the emergency services find themselves in, bound by their duty, even when their help isn’t requested or desired.
999: What’s Your Emergency? focuses on the work of police and paramedics in Cheshire. The series follows incidents from the moment the 999 call is made to the arrival of the frontline police and paramedics – the hard-working men and women who protect us from ourselves and each other, while seeing us as we really are. They talk with honesty and wit about the ever-increasing challenges of modern Britain.