It's just a crook hook-up

CAR salesman Chris Wall is sick of getting emergency police phone calls at his West Ballina car yard.

Four years ago he was given Ballina police station's old number by Telstra when he started his business on the Pacific Highway, opposite the Big Pineapple. He was not told it had been such a prominent number.

Since then he has been inundated by callers, often distressed and confused, seeking police assistance.

When Mr Wall discovered the problem shortly after he commenced trading, he considered changing the number.

“I contemplated it, but I'd invested so much in advertising and printing and it all seemed too daunting,” he said.

“So I left it as I thought it would settle down after six months. Four years later the number is still in circulation on the Internet and many Ballina Shire residents still have the old police fridge magnets at home.

Until recently the number was still displayed on the doors of smaller police stations that only open selected hours, like Wardell and Alstonville - the latter still only has a small cardboard sign sticky-taped over the old number.

“I've had calls from distressed little old ladies reporting prowlers in their backyards and about a year ago had a truckie call from Broadwater or Wardell during one of those fatal accidents down there,” Mr Wall said.

“They're often disbelieving and think someone's pulling their chain. You tell them it's not the police, but they just don't believe it and they won't listen.

“I'll give them the correct number, but they will say 'no, it's here on this card' or 'the police don't change their number'.

“Sometimes we'll go a week without calls, then we'll get 10 in one week.”

One of the biggest frustrations for Mr Wall is if he diverts after hours calls to his mobile the phone can run hot into the early hours of the morning and the diversions cost him 10 cents each.

Mr Wall has contacted Telstra, but he has yet to receive any assistance.

The correct number for Ballina police station is 6681 8699, though police stressed that all emergency callers should ring 000.

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