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Force sees improvements to 101 and 999 call handling

Over the past year, Dorset Police has seen improvements made to 101 and 999 call answering times.

In November, 93% of the calls received via the 999 line were answered within 10 seconds.  This is an increase from the same time last year when 91% of 999 calls were answered within 10 seconds.  Calls received via the 101 service also showed an improvement as 75% of calls were answered within 30 seconds during November 2015; up from 66% in November 2014.

On average 8,500 calls to the 101 line are received per week, which equates to over 1,200 calls per day.  Of those calls nearly 30% are resolved at the very first point of contact. 

Ongoing recruitment has aided the increased performance. This has been aided by the efficient handling of calls in the first instance by the Triage Team, meaning they do not need onward referral to the Force Command Centre.  Encouragingly, further improvements to the service could be noticed during 2016 as a result of new call centre technologies being delivered. 

Calls to the Force via the 101 and 999 services are the primary method of contact for members of the public to the police and answering both the 101 and 999 calls received by the Force promptly remains a top priority. 

Whilst this is encouraging news for the Force, there are still members of the public who contact the police for reasons which are completely outside of the Force’s jurisdiction, or which are not related to police matters. 

As the festive season approaches and following the 24-hour live Tweetathon on 20 November, Assistant Chief Constable (ACC), David Lewis and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Martyn Underhill, urge the public to think about when they should call the police.

Assistant Chief Constable, David Lewis says: “It is still a surprise that the Force receives such high volumes of calls which are not police related matters.  This is a concern because these calls prevent other people who have a genuine need to speak with the Force from getting through in a timely fashion. 

“We try our very hardest to ensure that every call received is answered quickly and efficiently, but as our Tweetathon proved, every call is different, meaning the call durations will vary.”

On 20 November, a 24-hour live Tweetathon was hosted by the Force, aiming to give the public valuable insight into the types of calls that the Force can expect to receive.  During that time, 1,364 issues were directed through the Force Command Centre, including; 338 calls to 999, 943 calls to 101, 43 reports via enquiry offices, 28 reports or requests from partner agencies, 10 reports by officer Airwave radios and two email enquiries. Around 700 other calls were assessed by the Triage team and redirected to partners or officers dealing with cases, without requiring the involvement of Call Handlers.

Unsurprisingly, the nature of calls was varied and there were a number of calls which surprised the public, including:

  • 999 - Caller unhappy as take away delivery driver didn't have any change. Advised not a police matter.
  • 101 - Caller from Massachusetts to report an RTC in the USA. Unsure how they got Dorset. No connection to UK, asked to call USA police.
  • 999 - Caller rang 999 emergency num ber to ask what the non-emergency number was. Advice given.
  • 999 - "I've lost my friend in the pub" - advised we cannot help and it’s not a police emergency.

The feedback from this event was incredibly positive and the comments from the public during the Tweetathon recognised the unique nature of policing, the demand, and the sometimes inappropriate use of the emergency services by some members of the public.

The ACC continued: “We appreciate that Christmas will always be a busy time for emergency services, but we are urging the public to carefully consider whether the reason for their call is something the police can help with before picking up the ‘phone.  The 101 line is not a directory enquiries service and should be used in circumstances such as the following examples:

  • to give the police information about crime in your area
  • to speak to the police about a police related enquiry
  • if your car has been stolen
  • if your property has been damaged
  • if you suspect drug use or dealing in your local area
  • to report a minor traffic accident

“If a crime is in progress, or life is at risk, you should always call 999.”

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, said: “I am pleased by recent performance figures which has seen Dorset Police improve its response times to answering non-emergency calls on its 101 service. I am also reassured to see that 101 related complaints are going down. The number of people contacting me regarding the 101 service has fallen over the last few months, however, I still think there is work to be done in improving public confidence in the 101 service.

The triage system is working well to minimise the effect of calls relating to non-police matters, which was illustrated in the recent tweetathon which raised awareness of the number of misdirected and unnecessary calls made to the service. It is really important that people use the 101 service appropriately, especially over the Christmas period when demand is likely to be higher. 2016 will also see the launch of a new Dorset Police website, which will be more informative, interactive and engaging, which will give people another route to contacting the Force.”

The Dorset Police website has a “Do It Online” service, enabling members of the public to make a general enquiry, report lost property, request a call back, message an officer directly or make a complaint, which means members of the public can communicate with the Force without having to call or visit a station.