By Michael Davies firstname.lastname@example.org
SURREY’S Chief Constable, Lynne Owens
The beleaguered 101 number, which was introduced by police forces across the country in 2012 as a way of reducing pressure on the emergency 999 service, has come under heavy scrutiny in recent months.
Last year, an investigation by the Advertiser found residents had been left on hold for up to 45 minutes while others had simply given up and decided not to report anything.
The revelations led to some in the community labelling the service an “absolute waste of time”.
Now, following further complaints about 101, the chief constable has admitted the service needs to do better.
In an e-mail to a Brockham resident, Mrs Owens wrote: “This year our 101 performance has dropped; introduction of a new computer system, loss of staff (and time taken to recruit/train more) and the call volumes have increased by five per cent this year!
“We have a plan to get it back on track but we know we are not there yet.”
Responding to the correspondent’s suggestion that people are now wary of dialling 999 following publicity that it should be used for “real” emergencies only, she added: “It is worrying to hear people have doubts about that too.”
According to end-of-year figures from Surrey Police, 357,877 calls were logged through the 101 number from January to November in 2014 – the equivalent of 1,071 a day. That is an increase from 350,428 – or 960 a day – in the whole of 2013.
Superintendent Matt Goodridge, who is responsible for managing telephone services for Surrey Police, said the force had set itself high standards for response times when answering all calls.
He said: “Whilst the force acknowledges that the most recent quarterly figures for responses to 101 calls were below expected levels, 999 call answering continues to be a priority and our performance remains high.
“The force had encountered difficulties answering non-emergency calls promptly due to delays in new recruits starting and the roll-out of a new ICT system last year.
“Surrey Police has also seen a significant increase in the number of online reports of non-emergency incidents and is currently recruiting additional staff and providing extra training to ensure that the public receive a timely response.
“Changes in the way police officers access systems on the street will have a positive impact on demand on call operators – with many officers having access to mobile data terminals with significant recent investments increasing that capacity.
“Improving response time for 101 calls remains a priority for the force and Surrey Police is confident that the figures will improve in the coming months as part of Surrey Police’s ongoing commitment to improving contact with our communities.”