£250,00 to improve ‘unacceptable’ 101 service

Sergeant Andy Squires is now splitting his time between Sidmouth and Seaton. Picture by Alex Walton.

Sergeant Andy Squires is now splitting his time between Sidmouth and Seaton. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 6983-28-13AW - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth’s police sergeant has welcomed a £250,000 investment to improve the ‘unacceptable’ 101 non-emergency call system which has been branded ‘not fit for purpose’.

Devon and Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner has ring-fenced the six-figure sum to make immediate improvements to the service, following a report that he said demonstrated ‘a poor state of affairs’.

Findings state the average call waiting time has almost doubled to more than eight minutes and the percentage of callers who have to wait more than 10 minutes for a resolution has risen from 13 per cent to 32 per cent.

Sergeant Andy Squires, of Sidmouth’s neighbourhood policing team, said that failures in the call system have a knock-on effect for his officers.

He explained people who try to report a crime by dialling 101 often give up after many failed attempts and instead leave a message for the neighbourhood team.

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Officers then have to go through a lengthy and detailed process to properly log the incident and generate a crime reference number - much of which could have been avoided if details were recorded through the 101 line at the time of the call.

Sgt Squires said: “This is hugely time consuming. We are always willing to help people if we can as we understand their frustration with 101, but it would make a huge difference to us if it was fixed and the ‘direct criming’ process happened as it was designed.”

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The 101 phone service was introduced to make it easier for members of the public to contact police about low-level crime, but concerns have been raised about reports of inefficiency and delays - prompting a review into the system.

The subsequent report also shows there have been delays of over 12 months in the introduction of new technology and states a poor understanding of performance suggests a lack of focus on public call handling from police management.

Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg said: “This report demonstrates a poor state of affairs.

“Performance appears to have worsened rather than improved in this important area.

“At a time when we have been reducing some face-to-face contact through the closure of public enquiries offices, it is vital that our phone contact system is fit for purpose - it is not.

“Our control room staff work really hard and provide a good service when they get to deal with members of the public. However, they work under very high pressure, using poor technology, and there are not enough of them.

“Over 12 months ago, I committed to a marked improvement in public call handling. This has not happened and it is unacceptable. I am therefore making £250,000 available to the chief constable to put in place immediate improvements.”

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