Non-urgent police calls 'go unanswered'

 
Telephone operators The data shows most calls were answered within the 30 seconds target

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Hundreds of thousands of phone calls to the new police non-emergency 101 number are going unanswered, figures from forces in England and Wales suggest.

The 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 - 4% of calls.

Thirty out of the 43 police forces provided information to the BBC after a Freedom of Information Act request.

But not every force supplied all the details requested.

The other 13 forces were contacted but said they did not collect such data or were only able to provide incomplete data.

Steve White, of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the figures "demonstrate that members of the public are clearly finding it more difficult to report crime".

He said: "While the government insists that crime is falling, despite the significant cuts to the police service, the high volume of unanswered calls suggests that many offences may be going unrecorded.

"Crime recording is extremely complex in its nature, as these figures highlight."

'Complex review'

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

The time varied between 35 and 57 seconds but in the case of South Wales Police was 2 minutes, 45 seconds.

In two instances, callers to South Wales and Northamptonshire 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.

Start Quote

Lost calls can be inflated in periods of high demand and therefore inaccurately inflate figures”

End Quote South Wales Police

The data provided shows eight of the forces answered in under 10 seconds on average with Kent, Suffolk, Devon and Cornwall and Merseyside proving to be the fastest.

The UK's largest force - the Metropolitan Police - answered its 101 calls in an average of 14 seconds.

South Wales Police said: "There have been periods where the introduction of new processes and technology have impacted on the number of calls answered and the waiting times.

"Lost calls can be inflated in periods of high demand and therefore inaccurately inflate figures… when we are dealing with major incidents such as Olympic Games, international rugby events, protests and murders we will on some occasions leave a 101 call unanswered whilst we respond."

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.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland introduced a single non-emergency number in 2005 - 0845 600 8000.

A 101 non-emergency phone number was introduced in Scotland in February this year.

101 performance by force

Force Calls answered Answered within 30 seconds Calls dropped Average time taken to answer** Longest time taken to answer **

Source: Figures supplied by each force. Covers period Jan-Oct 2012. Notes: *Includes all non-emergency calls. ** Time in hours, minutes and seconds (hh:mm:ss)

South Wales *

380342

40%

17.4%

00:02:45

00:52:18

Northants

236619

65%

18.9%

00:00:57

00:53:19

Dorset *

225006

71%

5.3%

00:00:49

00:23:54

Staffordshire

326676

67%

7.2%

00:00:39

Figures not supplied

Greater Manchester

50637

51%

7.2%

00:00:35

Figures not supplied

Surrey

318238

79%

12.3%

00:00:35

00:28:35

Hampshire *

590755

Figures not supplied

8.6%

00:00:30

00:24:47

Cumbria

131720

79%

8.9%

00:00:28

00:27:09

West Mercia

159385

70%

6.8%

00:00:28

00:29:48

North Yorkshire

189183

81%

Figures not supplied

00:00:27

00:12:50

Gwent

95808

85%

10.3%

00:00:21

00:14:23

Derbyshire *

559471

Figures not supplied

Figures not supplied

00:00:20

Figures not supplied

Avon & Somerset

594427

84%

1%

00:00:18

00:20:43

Nottinghamshire *

301059

88%

2.3%

00:00:17

Figures not supplied

Hertfordshire

188408

91%

3.2%

00:00:16

00:32:16

Lancashire

156363

Figures not supplied

0.7%

00:00:14

Figures not supplied

Metropolitan *

2413755

89%

2.8%

00:00:14

00:43:00

Cambridgeshire

339636

90%

Figures not supplied

00:00:12

00:18:52

Leicestershire

70249

91%

3.4%

00:00:12

00:14:07

Essex *

764339

93%

2.1%

00:00:11

Figures not supplied

Cleveland

54677

Figures not supplied

1.2%

00:00:09

Figures not supplied

North Wales *

322498

Figures not supplied

9.1%

00:00:09

Figures not supplied

Wiltshire

180835

71%

1.8%

00:00:09

Figures not supplied

Northumbria *

297347

94%

Figures not supplied

00:00:08

00:39:25

Merseyside

154223

96%

4.1%

00:00:07

00:04:15

Devon & Cornwall *

538438

100%

6.2%

00:00:06

00:06:50

Suffolk

122400

Figures not supplied

Figures not supplied

00:00:06

Figures not supplied

Kent

295889

98%

1.5%

00:00:05

00:14:47

West Yorkshire

563167

71%

4.6%

Figures not supplied

Figures not supplied

Thames Valley *

828743

91%

1.8%

Figures not supplied

Figures not supplied

 

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  • rate this
    +55

    Comment number 29.

    19. carefix
    6 MINUTES AGO
    I am not surprised. I reported murders and asked to make a statement. They told me they would get back then simply ignored me.
    --
    Possibly the least believable post I've read in a long time. Not just one murder but 'murders' plural? Where do you live? Midsomer?

  • rate this
    +30

    Comment number 59.

    Are you serious BBC? You make a FOI request, find that 96% of calls were answered in less than a minute but choose to report that 496,000 or JUST 4% of calls were not taken because people hung up on the Police, mainly because they couldn't wait the maximum reported time of 160 seconds to speak to someone! What's wrong with you?

  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 12.

    Another easy Police bashing story dictated by an emotive title.

    How about "90% of non urgent calls answered in less than 30 seconds, longest wait 13 seconds (my area) - Fantastic work by Police."

    No, didn't think so, can't possibly praise the Police.

    More cuts mean less civilian staff which mean longer waiting times for everything. You simply can't have it all ways.

  • rate this
    +26

    Comment number 76.

    19.carefix
    46 Minutes ago
    I am not surprised. I reported murders and asked to make a statement. They told me they would get back then simply ignored me.

    Well next time use 999, or was this murder a non urgent murder

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 72.

    I suspect some % of those who hung up after no answer then would have dialed 999, rather than have given up. It may also mean in the future they just use 999.
    So not answering 101 will be putting more presure on 999

 

Comments 5 of 301

 

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