‘Intolerable’ - police commissioner criticises performance of Suffolk’s 101 non-emergency number

Photo: Library

Photo: Library

A police force has been criticised for its handling of non-emergency calls after it emerged callers are waiting nearly three minutes on average to be answered.

However, Suffolk Police said the number of calls to its 101 number, set up to deal with matters less urgent than 999 calls, is rising – and that it is 'working hard to ensure we have the right number of people answering calls'.

Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said it was 'intolerable' some people have waited 30 to 45 minutes without getting through to 101.

A report prepared ahead of his regular police and crime panel meeting revealed the 'proportion of calls answered within 20 seconds has been in continual decline over the last three years'.

Between April 2015 and March 2016, just 51.5pc of the 190,884 calls made to 101 were answered within 20 seconds – 14pc lower than the previous year. During March 2016, that figure fell even further, to 37.5pc.

And the average time to answer 101 calls now stands at two minutes, 50 seconds, compared to 57 seconds the year before.

The force is still answering the vast majority of 999 calls – 90.3pc – within 10 seconds.

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'The 101 system isn't working,' police and crime panel member Len Jacklin told the meeting yesterday.

He claims to have tried 101 for 45 minutes on occasions.

'In the old days I would've been on the phone to the PCSO. I have to make a judgement about whether I ever call 101 again,' he added. 'This has got to be addressed.'

Mr Passmore said: 'I'm aware of the issue about 101. It is intolerable people are kept waiting for that period of time. If people do hang on for 30 or 40 minutes, they give up and crime is not getting reported.

'If we want people to report crime, then we have got to get a system where they can actually do it.

'We need to manage expectations. If people are going to be in a queue, then tell them – otherwise it gets so frustrating.'

He favours a system similar where people are told where their call is in a queue.

A police spokesman said: 'We are working with our staff to give callers as much information as possible if delays are expected at peak times.

'We are also working to ensure members of the public make the right call to us, and to call the appropriate agency for the issue they have, as well as making use of other ways of getting in touch with us, such as via our website.'

What is your experience of the 101 system in Suffolk? Write, giving your full contact details, to andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk