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'Help us improve call handling and victim services' - says Commissioner

ONE of the principal duties of a police and crime commissioner is to engage the public in decisions about how we can reduce crime and help those affected by it.

'Help us improve call handling and victim services' - says Commissioner

This week I am asking our residents to give me their time about two really important areas.

The first relates to 101 and 999 contact services. As joint national lead for local policing this week I have launched a nationwide survey to help us better understand the public’s views on these essential contact methods.

Here in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly the amount of time people wait to get through to the 101 phone number – for non-emergency reporting to police – has been a cause of concern to our communities for a long time.

Although we describe the 101 service as for non emergencies the reality is that these calls, emails and web chats are still of significant importance and must be responded to in a timely manner.

Over the last four years a lot has been done to try to reduce wait times and prioritise the most important 101 calls with new call handling technology and significant additional staff for contact centres in Exeter and Plymouth.

The force has also introduced a facility that allows people to check how long 101 wait times are online before they pick up the phone.

In Devon and Cornwall WebChat - which enables people to ‘talk’ to contact centre staff online - has proved to be a really useful addition and popular with users, with 85% of users in the year to January saying that they were likely to use it again.

The trouble is that the complexity of information that the force gathers to ensure it delivers an appropriate response has risen, so length of calls has increased over the years, with the result that wait times have too.

The average amount of time it takes to handle a 999 call also rose about two years ago and has stayed at this higher level.

The survey, which takes just a few minutes to complete, tests people’s knowledge and understanding of these services and asks them what their main considerations are when they need to contact the police. For those who have used these services in the last year it asks them to rate the speed and quality of service.

Commissioners around the country have told me that the results of the survey, which launches this week and can be found online at Crime Reporting - National Public Contact Survey (2022) ( will be hugely useful in their role of holding police forces to account for their performance and to guide future investment, so please ensure you have your say before the survey closes at midnight on Sunday, June 26.

My other ask of you this week is that you take time to complete a short survey on victim services in Devon and Cornwall, whether or not you have been a victim of crime.

Last year I signed the most significant contract to provide services for those affected by crime outside London, with national charity Victim Support becoming my strategic partner. There is some really interesting work going on at the moment, with the principle that the victim should be placed at the centre of the system and bespoke services tailored to their need. A victim of violence could, for example, choose to take part in restorative justice, communicating with the perpetrator of the crime in an attempt to understand the offence more. They might also take up opportunities for counselling to help them recover.

Victim services have improved and diversified hugely over the years, and those affected can now be directed to any number of effective, high-quality services.

The trouble is that the availability of these services is not as widely understood as it could be. Victim Support is asking residents of the force area to answer a few questions about the kind of search terms they might use if they were looking for support and the people or agencies they might reach out to.

This data will tell the charity where it should invest communications resource and ultimately put more people in touch with those who can help.

To take part in this survey go to