North Yorkshire Police has been urged to carry out an urgent review of the 101 non-emergency phone number to ensure it is fit for purpose in North Yorkshire.
North Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel has expressed concerns to the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, Julia Mulligan, about recent poor performance of the service, which can be used to report non-urgent issues to North Yorkshire Police.
At a meeting last week councillors shared reports from residents of having spent up to six hours on the phone waiting to speak to someone in the police’s control room.
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Some residents had either to abandon their call or consider calling the 999 emergency number instead.
North Yorkshire County Councillor Carl Les, chair of the panel and leader of the County Council, said: “The panel has taken a keen interest in the development of the 101 service for some time.
“While we have been supportive of recent improvements, the recent surge in call volumes requires urgent attention and we will be keeping this under review with the Commissioner over the coming months.”
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.
He added that other residents had tried to call about an ongoing case but again nobody picked up.
In response to the concerns, the commissioner said there had been a spike in call volumes to the 101 service between April and June, with demand rising by up to 20 per cent.
She said this was not purely an issue in North Yorkshire but that a similar trend has been seen in police forces nationwide, where calls to the 999 emergency service also rose sharply during this time.
The reasons for these increases were currently unclear, but the Commissioner said Chief Constable Dave Jones was taking the issue very seriously, with work under way to investigate and to make sure that adequate resource was available.
In a further statement issued today, Deputy Chief Constable Lisa Winward, said that like most forces across the country, North Yorkshire was currently experiencing high demand in the Force Control Room with an increase in calls – particularly 999 calls – of around 20 percent since May 2017.
For example, on Sunday 18 June, the force received more calls than on New Year’s Eve, which historically is their busiest day of the year and is planned for in advance.
She added: “I would like to reassure members of the public that we are implementing a number of measures to help deal with the unprecedented increase in demand, now and into the future, but this cannot be done overnight.
“999 emergency calls must take precedence over non-emergencies, and the increase is having a knock-on effect on the time it takes to answer non-emergency calls. We ask the public to please bear with us as we implement the improvement measures over the coming months.
“Our control room staff are working extremely hard as we work to service the increase in demand and implement the changes. It is a very fast-paced and pressurised environment and I must pay tribute to the commitment and resilience they have shown during this time.
“In the meantime, we ask members of the public to use 101 in the correct circumstances. Our website provides information on when to contact the police, the best way to contact us and when to call other agencies such as the council.
“Always call 999 if your safety threatened or in an emergency situation.”
Call numbers this month to date compared to the same time last year
2 July 2016 – 24 July 2016
999 calls – 4,920
101 calls – 19,409
2 July 2017 – 24 July 2017
999 calls – 6,114 (25% increase)
101 calls – 20,498