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Police call answering record dubbed ‘shocking’

Monday, February 7th, 2022 5:03pm

By Stuart Minting, Local Democracy Reporter

North Yorkshire Police has been told its recent record is “shocking” as it emerged it took more than two minutes to answer some 999 calls.

A meeting of the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Panel heard between July and December last year an average of seven per cent of callers to the non-emergency 101 line between July and December last year waited more than 15 minutes and in July some 33 per cent of calls to the number were abandoned.

Councillor Carl Maw said while it was pleasing the majority of 999 calls were being answered within five seconds, to have any taking more than two minutes to be answered alongside a significant number taking more than a minute to answer was “shocking”.

Superintendent Jason Dixon told the meeting the number of 999 calls had increased dramatically throughout the year, but that was a national rather than local phenomenon, and the cause of the ongoing spike in calls remained unknown.

He said July last year saw the force record 9,689 emergency calls, its highest ever volume. Each month since had seen the highest number of calls for the month concerned, the meeting heard, with there being about 30 per cent more calls in January this year than January 2021.

Supt Dixon said the Force Control Room also needed extra staff as the complexity of the calls had increased, with the average time needed to manage a call, such as someone having a mental health crisis, almost doubling over the last five years.

He said as 999 calls had to be prioritised it meant call waiting times to the 101 number had increased. The panel heard the force often received multiple 999 calls at the same time as many people now had mobile phones that they could use while driving safely, meaning the Force Control Room could become overwhelmed answering up to 30 calls about the same incident.

He said the force was aiming to introduce software that could predict when there would be surges in 999 calls.

Supt Dixon said: “At the moment we know that we don’t have enough staff in there to answer within our targets. The software will allow us to be a lot more targeted in our resources. You can never guess when there going to be a large crash on the A1, but it will give us a much better idea about when those demands will be coming through so we have the right staffing levels in there to answer our calls.”

However, the meeting heard the number of extra staff to be drafted into the Force Control Room was yet to be decided.

The panel was told while many incidents or offences could now be reported online, to take some of the pressure off the 101 service, police needed to remember North Yorkshire’s ageing population.

Chief constable Lisa Winward said the force was also working to reduce the number of calls it received that were not police-related matters, educating residents about the most appropriate services to call.

 

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