Thousands of Devon and Cornwall police 101 callers hang up

PCC Tony Hogg
Image caption Police commissioner Tony Hogg launched an investigation following complaints from the public

A fifth of callers to the Devon and Cornwall Police 101 service are having to wait more than 20 minutes to get through, a report has found.

Police and crime commissioner Tony Hogg launched an investigation into the use of the non-emergency number following complaints from the public.

He also found thousands of callers hung up in frustration.

The 101 number is used to report offences such as vandalism and drug dealing.

'Not fit for purpose'

Mr Hogg's study found callers were waiting an average of more than six minutes, but half waited 10 minutes or longer.

A fifth had to wait 20 minutes or more and more than 25% of callers hung up.

The report branded the situation "frustrating and unacceptable".

In October, it meant 3,768 callers did not get through and another 2,763 got an engaged tone.

The review found the police's call-handling technology was "not fit for purpose" and "a substantial barrier to delivering a better service".

Analysis: Simon Hall, BBC South West crime correspondent

Monitoring and improving the service the police provide to the public is a core part of the commissioner's job.

But there is also a more subtle agenda in play here.

Within Tony Hogg's office, there is a concern he is seen as too close to the police, when his role is to be a watchdog and public champion.

A tough-talking report like this, with the promise of an improved service, should help to emphasise his independence and enhance his public image.

It is the second anniversary of the commissioner taking office and some police sources suspect that has influenced the timing of the release of this report.

"I will continue to closely monitor performance until such time as I am satisfied it is improving and a reasonable service is being provided," said Mr Hogg.

The commissioner has agreed an improvement plan for the 101 number with Devon and Cornwall Police.

It will mean a review of call-handling processes, improved technology and the recruitment and training of new staff, Mr Hogg said.

Case study one

Gail Hickman, 63, from Bideford, said she spent 20 minutes trying to call police about an abandoned car.

"It makes people reluctant to call the police. Who can be arsed to wait that long?

"If you were a mother with a baby you wouldn't wait 20 minutes just to get through to someone.

"People are hanging up and dialling 999 so that things that should be 101 are clogging up the emergency line."

Cash study two

Image caption Cath Andrews waited a total of 45 minutes before being cut off

Cake shop owner Cath Andrews from Honiton, Devon, rang 101 twice to report a prowler, the day before a raid at her premises.

"I had wait 30 minutes before they answered the phone," she said.

"Then they put me through to another department. I was waiting for another 15 minutes waiting to be put through and got cut off.

"It's about time they started doing something about it.

"It's really important, especially when you have a business, that you are taken seriously."

Ch Supt Jim Nye, head of operations for Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "We are always trying to improve the service, but 999 calls had to take priority.

"I am confident the performance concerns will be addressed."

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