Police fail to answer non-emergency calls in target time

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Northamptonshire Police and five other forces failed to answer non-emergency 101 calls within the target time, it has been revealed.

According to new figures, hundreds of thousands of calls to the non-emergency 101 number go unanswered by police forces.

Many forces aim to answer 101 calls within 30 seconds but six - Northamptonshire, South Wales, Dorset, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester and Surrey - took longer than that on average.

In two instances, callers to Northamptonshire and South Wales Police, had to wait more than 50 minutes before someone answered. According to the data provided, the two forces also had the highest percentage of “dropped calls” - those where people hang up or are disconnected.

The 101 number was introduced for people to report crimes such as drug dealing, car theft and property damage.

But people hung up or were disconnected before a reply 496,000 times between January and October 2012.

Thirty out of the 44 police forces provided information to the BBC after a Freedom of Information Act request.

But not every force supplied all the details requested.

Northamptonshire Police said the number of calls received “which were answered quickly - or at all - fell well below customer expectations”.

The force said its call handling unit had undergone a complex “change review” to achieve savings and improve services which resulted in a breakdown in performance monitoring.

A force spokesman said: “We strive to answer all emergency and non-emergency calls as quickly as possible and we acknowledge there was a problem with this for a period of time last year, as reflected in these historic statistics.

“A significant change programme has taken place in the control room in the last 12 months to ensure we manage risk to the public better and improve value for money, while at the same time maintain a high level of service for the people of Northamptonshire.

“As such a new call handling system was introduced in September and since then the average time it has taken for us to answer non-emergency calls is 21 seconds. Yesterday, that figure was 2.12 seconds.”

Northamptonshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds carried out a review of call answering and handling as soon as he came into post.

His scrutiny report was published in January and concluded that call handling performance has shown a dramatic improvement, with service levels for answering both emergency and non emergency calls being attained from November.

A copy of his full report is available at www.northantspcc.org.uk

Average time for non-emergency (101) calls to be answered since new call handling system was introduced on 15 September, is 21 seconds.

Average time for emergency (999) calls to be answered since new call handling system was introduced on 15 September, is 2.6 seconds.

Average time for non-emergency (101) calls to be answered yesterday, was 2.12 seconds.

Average time for emergency (999) calls to be answered yesterday, was 0.43 seconds.