What is an emergency?

Listed below are a few examples of emergencies when it would be necessary to call 999. This is not however an exhaustive list and common sense must prevail.

General circumstances of an incident reported to the police, when there is or likely to be:

  • danger to life
  • use, or immediate threat of use, of violence
  • serious injury to a person and/or
  • serious damage to property

Criminal conduct

  • the crime is, or likely to be serious and in progress
  • an offender has just been disturbed at the scene
  • an offender has been detained and poses, or is likely to pose, a risk to other people

Road traffic accident

  • involves, or is likely to involve, serious personal injury
  • the road is blocked or there is a dangerous or excessive build-up of traffic.                                                                    

Advice and information

If you’re not sure if something is a police matter, you can find out by visiting Askthe.police.uk. Here you will find the answers to the most frequently asked policing questions. 

You will also be able to find out who the best people are to contact if what you're looking to find out isn't a police matter. 

We have lots information and crime prevention advice on our website too. You can learn how to make your home more secure, who to call if you’ve found an abandoned vehicle and what to do if you think you’ve been a victim of fraud.

More ways of reporting

We're offering more ways of reporting non-emergency crime and antisocial behaviour. We want to make it easier and more convenient for you to get in contact with us.

We're encouraging people to go online to make non-emergency reports. This will help us to provide a better, more efficient service for our communities, and assist those asking for our help quickly.

We still have our 24-hour 101 service which people can call if they feel it is more appropriate to speak to us or don't have access to the internet.

If it is not an emergency and the crime you want to speak to us about is not happening right now, please do not call 999.

Here are some of the things you can do online through our Digital 101 service.

Live chat

Our Live Chat service allows people to report crime that isn't an emergency, antisocial behaviour or give us information. Users can send and receive real-time messages with our online digital 101 operators.

Live Chat is available on the homepage of our website Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) between 10am-9pm. You can access it by clicking on the 'Live Chat' icon at the bottom right of our home page or our contact us page.

The can use Live Chat on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or even a mobile phone.


How to make a silent 999 call

If you are in a dangerous situation and feel you cannot speak freely to an operator, we can still help you.

If calling from a mobile:

When asked which service you would like, press 55 on the keypad. This will automatically get you transferred to us.

You might then be asked to indicate that you’re still on the line by one of our call handlers, either by coughing, tapping your phone, or, where possible, speaking quietly.

This doesn't allow us to track your location, but we will be able to listen in to what is going on around you and work out how to get help to you.

If calling from a landline:

If you are calling from a landline and replace the handset at any point, the landline may remain connected for 45 seconds in case you pick it up again.

Calling 999 from a landline automatically gives the police information about your location.

999 BSL

We support the 999 BSL service that connects you to British Sign Language interpreters remotely through an app or a web-based platform. They will then relay the conversation with one of our call handlers.  

The service launched in June 2022 and is available to download as a smartphone app (iOS and Android) and can be accessed as a web-based platform.


The What3Words app is available to download to your phone and in an emergency could help us locate you faster.

It has divided the world into 3-meter squares and given each square a unique combination of three words. If you are unsure of where you are, we can use this unique combination to pinpoint your exact location and get help to you.


Always call 999 if someone’s life or property is in immediate danger or if there’s a crime taking place at the time. 

If there is no immediate risk to you, someone else or a property, consider if using one of the other ways of contacting us would be better.

The persistent misuse of 999 is a crime. You could be putting lives at risk, and we will seek to prosecute offenders.

Our call handlers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, ready to take your calls and help you.

Help us help you by making sure they are available for those who really need our help in an emergency.