Sussex Police is failing to hit its target on the time taken to answer non-emergency calls from residents.
During her regular performance and accountability meeting late last month, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne explained that 45 per cent of non-emergency calls were being answered within 60 seconds in June, which was 30 per cent off the force’s own target.
Meanwhile Sussex Police is only answering 999 calls within ten seconds less than 90 per cent of the time in each of the past four months.
Mrs Bourne said: “This continues to be a concern for me and the public but the trends demonstrated for July suggest this is not going to improve any time soon.”
Chief Constable Giles York replied: “For somebody to be waiting as long as an hour and an hour-and-a-half for us to able to get to them is unacceptable and I’m really sorry to all of those people who have been kept waiting that long.”
He added: “The people in there [the contact centre] are working incredibly hard they are aware of this and they’re really trying to improve that service. Personally I think 60 seconds for a non-emergency is just too fast.”
Deputy Chief Constable Bernie O’Reilly explained that Sussex Police receive roughly 2,500 calls every day, with about 600 of these 999 calls, which have mostly been answered within four seconds since the start of July.
However the average for calls through to the 101 number to be answered between July 1 and the meeting was just under four minutes.
He said: “Whilst just under four minutes for a call that isn’t an emergency seems pretty reasonable on face value we have to be really honest with ourselves and say there are some real peaks and troughs here.”
The force receives around 150 calls in the hour after 5pm, but only around five or six calls from 5am.
Sussex Police has seen a ‘sharp rise in sickness’ and while the number of people to fully man the contact centre is 382 people, they currently have 361, although they had recruitment plans in place.
Mr O’Reilly explained that the average call time was around 20 minutes to gain enough information to deal with each incident correctly.
Mr York added: “What’s interesting is the tension between trying to resolve something there and then over the phone.”
He continued: “We are trying to do some of that resolution at first touch, that I think is important.”
Mrs Bourne said: “I suppose flannelled is an unfair word to use, but I feel a bit frustrated that perhaps this is not being given the attention it needs.
“I think the resolution centre is working really well, but the 101 this is your front-line policing, and although this is not an emergency it is in people’s eyes. If they do not want to bother police and call 999 they tend to ring 101 and if they do not feel they are getting the service that’s your front line that’s your public confidence gone out of the window.”
Mr York replied: “The public do not call the police lightly but some do and there are a number of ways to help us in this. One is always visit the website first if you can, you can do an awful lot on our website now around reporting crime, reporting incidents, traffic incidents, so absolutely go to the website.”
Mr O’Reilly explained their work with queue-busting technology would allow people to elect for police to call them back to ‘flatten out the demand’.
Sussex Police’s website advises residents to ‘call 999 you or someone else is in immediate danger, or if the crime is happening right now’.
For non-emergency incidents residents can report them online, or by calling 101, or emailing email@example.com
Visit Sussex Police’s website.
Meanwhile Sussex Police is also recruiting for contact handler roles on its website.
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