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Phone calls to police non-emergency number now answered faster, says top officer

PUBLISHED: 20:57 20 August 2018 | UPDATED: 20:57 20 August 2018

Gareth Wilson, Chief Constable of Suffolk Police.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Gareth Wilson, Chief Constable of Suffolk Police. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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A highly-criticised system for answering non-emergency phone calls to the police has been turned around thanks to the introduction of a new call handling system, Suffolk’s top police officer has said.

The force’s 101 number has come under fire in the past for its slow response times, with some people reporting that they have waited 30mins or more before giving up and hanging up the phone.

While the delays did not affect 999 calls, it was believed the slow answering of calls to the 101 number was putting people off reporting crimes - with Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore pledging to resolve the problem.

But a new system brought in during May now enables control room staff to identify and prioritise the most important calls that come through on the 101 number.

Chief constable Gareth Wilson said the new system now meant other forces are “in awe” of Suffolk’s 101 call handling - with him calling it: “A good investment for Suffolk that ensures we get to the right calls faster.”

He said calls that should have been made on 999 are being answered in six seconds on average, domestic abuse calls on average in under two minutes and ‘advice’ calls in an average of around 15mins.

“Contact with the police has been a consistent concern from our communities since I joined the police and the 101 system has been performing below par for a number of years,” he said.

“After some very detailed work with suppliers and investment from the police and crime commissioner, Suffolk has a system that other forces are looking at in awe.

“If you’d called 101 in our contact and control room just six months ago with an urgent call, you could wait significant periods of time because the system ‘stacked’ you in a queue that did not allow prioritisation – you just had to wait your turn.

“Now, the switchboard operator can filter you into one of nine queues that enables us to answer the most important calls first whilst allowing other options of contact for the less urgent calls.

“It will help provide a more focused response to the calls we receive and make sure we provide the most appropriate response for each contact and allow call handlers to better understand and support calls around specific needs.”

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