Concerns are mounting over a police 101 call service after a councillor told how she drove to a supermarket and did her shopping while attempting to report ongoing antisocial behaviour.
Former chairman of Richmondshire District Council Councillor Angie Dale said North Yorkshire Police 101 operators took 22 minutes to answer her call about incidents in Colburn, where regular disorder has led to a Public Spaces Protection Order being imposed.
She said: “Everybody knows the antisocial issues within Colburn and it was relating to children.
“If anyone thinks that is satisfactory they must be off their trolley. Twenty-two minutes is not acceptable on 101 system.”
A full meeting of the authority heard other councillors had also encountered lengthy waits while calling the non-emergency line as the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner works to improve response times.
Last September it emerged that of the 139,776 calls to the 101 service in the first six months of 2017, 21.44 per cent of callers hung up before their call was answered.
Commissioner Julia Mulligan is investing £3m over two years to improve the handling of calls to the force.
Her deputy, Will Naylor, told the county’s police and crime panel last week that building work on the force’s Control Room was complete, creating space for extra staff and a training room and 50 staff had been taken on and 24 more were due to start later this year.
He said waiting times for callers were lower than they were last year, and as more staff were trained delays would be further reduced, but ultimately waiting times were dependent on the volume of calls.
Mr Naylor said: “There was one day this month that was as busy as a new year’s eve, it is unprecedented.”
Cllr Dale told a full meeting of Richmondshire council she and her husband had witnessed “kids kicking things, fighting in the streets and going on to the business park” and dialled 101.
The Colburn member said: “I hung on to see how long it would take. By that time I had driven away from the incident, gone to Tesco, gone shopping and I was still on the phone waiting for 101 to answer. It is just not acceptable.”
Councillor Paul Cullen added: “It’s getting worse by the week and they keep saying it’s improving. There’s no way it’s improving and it never will because they haven’t got the capacity, they haven’t got the manpower to answer.”
Richmond councillor Lorraine Hodgson said she had called 101 from a school and had waited about six minutes before accepting an option to be called back.
She said: “It was about eight or nine minutes. I was quite impressed with that. I told the lady how delighted I was. They were very efficient and took all my details. It was actually quicker than the 22 minutes.”
Members agreed to collate their observations on the 101 service before presenting them to the force for a response.