Essex Police and Crime Commissioner and Chair of the APCC, Nick Alston said: “It is clearly unacceptable that, nationally, over a million calls to the police non-emergency 101 phone service were cut off or abandoned before contact was made during the last 12 months, an increase of over 25 per cent. A failure of the 101 service is also likely to create extra pressure on the crucial emergency 999 number.
“Victims of crime have a right to expect a good quality service from police forces, and the non-emergency 101 service should help to provide a means by which victims can seek support and learn about the progress of the police investigation. It is essential that people continue to use 101 to report suspicious behaviour, as this can often lead to a crime being prevented or a criminal being arrested. Of course, if a member of the public believes they are witnessing a crime in progress, they should call the emergency 999 number. There is considerable demand upon both the 999 and 101 numbers. It’s important that they are used correctly, and that the public continue to have confidence in using the services.
“I know that across the country, at the regular public meetings held by PCCs, people have raised concerns about the 101 service. PCCs need to continue to hold Chief Constables to account to ensure that the quality of contact between the public and police is improved, and I am aware that PCCs are already involved in work to tackle the issue locally.
“The precise nature of any problems with the 101 non-emergency service will often be different from one force to the next, and PCCs are bringing a clear local focus to addressing the core issues.
“Acting on concerns raised by local people, Tony Hogg, PCC for Devon and Cornwall, launched an inquiry which identified significant concerns about the ‘caller’s journey’ from initial contact through to getting a resolution to their call. He called the 101 service ‘unacceptable’, published the results of his inquiry and came up with a clear action plan which can be read on his website here.
“This is open, transparent and constructive scrutiny of our police forces by a Police and Crime Commissioner with the aim of ensuring that the public gets a better service.
“Tony Hogg’s review found that ‘call handlers are conscientious and caring and deal with callers in a professional manner’, and this reflects my own experience of call handling staff. Our professional police staff are very much part of the solution, but they are often being let down by outdated technology.
“There is a clear need to develop better processes for ensuring that members of the public who have been victims of crime can make contact with the officer investigating their case, and also to ensure that intelligence provided by the public via 101 can be quickly analysed and shared with appropriate officers.
“Given financial constraints and the pressure on police resources, there are unlikely to be quick fixes here. However, PCCs are bringing meaningful scrutiny to key elements of the service provided to the public by police forces and crucially looking to implement locally relevant solutions.”