North Yorkshire Police says its call handling of 999 and 101 has shown a significant improvement over the past two months.
Residents and community leaders in Richmondshire have strongly criticised the service this year with reports of callers to the 101 number having to wait hours for calls to be answered, with some callers not managing to get through.
Earlier this month Upper Dales county councillor Cllr Blackie told Richmondshire Today he had tried to call the force control room on the 101 number to report a distressed teenager in Hawes town centre, however,he got no response.
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He added that other residents had tried to call about an ongoing case but again nobody picked up.
Catterick county councillor Helen Grant complained at a meeting in October of Colburn Town Council that the 101 number just “didn’t bloody work” after hearing more reports of callers being left waiting when trying to report a crime or anti-social behaviour.
In a statement issued this week, North Yorkshire Police said control rooms across the country had seen an unprecedented increase in demand this year and North Yorkshire was no exception, with the increase in calls resulting in a drop in call answering times.
However, the force said it had recently introduced a number of changes to improve call handling and service the increase in demand.
These changes have resulted in a marked improvement in call answering times and the service provided to the public, the force claimed.
As New Year’s Eve approaches – historically one of the busiest nights of the year – the force is asking members of the public to only call 999 with genuine emergencies and the non-emergency number 101 with genuine police matters.
This applies at all times of the year, but more so during peak times such as New Year’s Eve.
Recent examples of inappropriate calls to the control room include a 14-year-old boy whose parents refused to give him a lift home when he missed the train and told him to ring the police; someone who was bored and rang 999 17 times to tell us; and someone whose partner had been arrested, wanted to complain about it, but they had no credit on their phone, so rang 999 repeatedly.
Chief Inspector Charlotte Bloxham, head of the force control room, said: “People should not be put off calling 999 if they have a genuine emergency, if they are in danger or if they are witnessing a crime in progress.
“But sadly some people abuse it for amusement or for completely inappropriate reasons that are not police related. We ask that we are only called for real police matters to ensure that people in genuine need can get through and get the help they need.
“It isn’t just a case of receiving an inappropriate call and then putting the phone down, for example the call from the boy whose parents refused to give him a lift resulted in a further three calls being made by the control room to ensure his safety.
“Two to his mother and one back to him.
“This took up valuable time that should have been used for genuine police-related matters. It’s the same with silent 999 calls, often made from mobile phones in people’s pockets.
“We do not ignore them and always call the number back to ensure they do not require the police. Again, this is taking up time that should be used for genuine emergencies.
“We plan ahead for New Year’s Eve and other busy times and will have extra staff on duty in the control room but it can get extremely busy. Just last week we were also taking calls for neighbouring forces and the Metropolitan Police as part of the ‘call buddy’ system which is designed to provide mutual aid when forces reach maximum call handling capacity.
“So while call handling times may be improving, we are still very busy and must ask that we are only called when it’s a police matter.”