Police open new call handling centre
A NEW call centre was opened yesterday by Suffolk police to cater for a huge growth in calls received from the public.Last year, the force received about 730,000 phone calls and handled more than 260 emergency calls on a daily basis.
By Richard Smith
A NEW call centre was opened yesterday by Suffolk police to cater for a huge growth in calls received from the public.
Last year, the force received about 730,000 phone calls and handled more than 260 emergency calls on a daily basis.
The growth in ownership and use of mobile phones has put added pressure on staff, with an accident on a dual carriageway in the county generating up to 40 calls.
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Now the force has taken on 13 extra call handling staff and it will recruit another five to handle the ever-increasing number of calls.
All calls will be handled by humans and there will be no need for a member of the public to speak to a machine.
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Calls used to be taken in the force operations room at its Martlesham Heath headquarters but this was becoming too cramped and it was not always satisfactory to have staff handling calls next to officers trying to despatch resources to an emergency.
Suffolk police now takes all calls at a centre at Adastral Park, Martlesham Heath, and this also gives the force more flexibility in case of an emergency affecting the nearby headquarters. The force operations room will still be a base for staff to send out officers.
Alastair McWhirter, Chief Constable, said: “If the bombs recently found at Kesgrave High School had been found about 400 yards further then we could have had to evacuate the force headquarters.
“Today we have a fall-back facility with this call centre and it operates on a separate power supply and on a separate exchange. We have more resilience which will help the people of Suffolk.
“The advent of mobile phones has made a huge difference to the number of calls. People want a service and they want it quicker and therefore we have had to invest in more resources.”
Latest figures show that Suffolk police is getting better at answering calls quickly and it has beaten Government targets - 90% of 999 calls must be answered within 10 seconds and the force is achieving 97%. This compares with 83% three years ago.
Ninety per cent of non-emergency calls must be answered within 10 seconds, and Suffolk police has achieved 93%.
Chief Inspector Mike Gooch said: “Most people's first contact with the police is via the phone and this first contact is often crucial in shaping people's opinion of the overall service they are offered.
“Our Suffolk First For You initiative is all about providing people with the best policing service. Call handling is essential to this aim and we need to ensure that all our callers are dealt with in an efficient, helpful and support manner from the second we answer the phone.
“The new centre was needed not only to help us improve our call handling service but also because the force operations room was not big enough to cater for the increased numbers of staff.”