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 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 a new extended date of midnight on Sunday, July 24. The survey can be completed here: Crime Reporting - National Public Contact Survey (2022) (smartsurvey.co.uk)