Non-emergency police callers to be offered call-back option
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Northamptonshire Police has pledged to offer non-emergency callers a call back option in a bid to manage call wait times.
The pledge sets out an aim to answer 101 calls within 60 seconds and prioritise them according to the level of threat, harm and risk.
Once the assessment is done and the call put into the appropriate category, the caller may be offered a call back option, after a set time has lapsed, preventing callers from waiting for long periods to have their concern dealt with.
The force also aims to answer 90 per cent of 999 calls within 10 seconds.
A new campaign has been launched aimed at increasing awareness among the public of how calls are dealt and why some may take longer to resolve.
The control room, which on average takes just over 1,178 calls a day, is often the first point of contact with the police for many people.
With the launch of a catchy new video and outdoor advertising, the force aims to educate callers about why, and how long they may wait, when calling 101 and how they can now report some non-emergencies easily and conveniently online.
Superintendent Ash Tuckley, who heads the control room, said: “Every year, we take hundreds of thousands of calls into the control room. Not all of these are emergencies and not all of these require an immediate police response.
“Inevitably what happens is that the queue builds up because everyone is trying to call one central call centre. This can lead to long wait times. We’re hoping that this campaign and pledge will better inform people of how long they can expect to wait when they call us and prompt people to think about whether they need to make that call or if it’s something that they can do online at their own convenience.
“Crucially though, we hope that the messages will help to educate people about the process of threat, risk and harm assessment that each caller undertakes and which leads to that call being prioritised accordingly.
“We want people to be aware of how long they may wait, and in the case of non-emergencies, may be offered a call back option.
“We know that people don’t like waiting when they call 101, but with large numbers of calls coming in, if it’s not a higher priority it may end up in a queue."
PFCC Stephen Mold and Superintendent Ash Tuckley in the Force Control Room.
Last year – 2018/19 – control room operators answered 280,531 calls to the 101 number, averaging 1,178 calls a day, of which 320 were 999 calls. By comparison, on average only 167 crimes were recorded a day.
Calls relating to individuals with mental health issues, social needs, vulnerable cases or people reported missing have increased - calls that often take longer to deal with.
Superintendent Tuckley, added: “We deal with people who are in crisis and they need help and support but at times we’re not the most appropriate service to help them. Often, there are other agencies out there that are better placed to meet those needs, not a police emergency response.
“From our data we can see that last year, just over 20 per cent of incidents were actual crimes. However, almost 40 per cent of incidents were what we call ‘public safety and welfare’. That’s calls to us about things like missing people, immigration, weather related incidents, animal related concerns and even truancy. Almost 16 per cent of calls were transport related.
“With the help of this campaign, we hope people will begin to realise that the breadth of what the modern day police deal with is vast and some non-emergency callers may be expected to wait or offered a call back. Some callers may prefer to go online to report non-emergencies.
“Whatever the reason to contact us – whether on the phone or online, we will always aim to deal with it in a professional and timely manner.”
With increasing numbers of people going online for things like mobile banking, the force hopes to raise awareness of how the public can help reduce wait times by going digital, and thereby free up 999 and 101 for people who really need to speak to the police.
Northamptonshire Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold, said: "The time it can take to get through on the phone to report something that is important, but not as high priority as a 999 call, is something that people talk to me about on a daily basis. This campaign is just the start of a programme that aims to make it easier for people to get in touch with the police. We want people to understand that you may have to wait while urgent matters are dealt with and that some things can quickly and simply be reported online. Then over the coming year we will roll out a programme of initiatives that will ultimately enable people to report issues quickly and simply and in a way that suits them best."
Call and incident data
280,531 calls were answered by an operator and triaged according to threat, risk or harm. 85.4 per cent of these calls were answered within 60 seconds. In 2018/19, 585,735 calls were made to the 101 number. Around 50 per cent of these calls were directed through the automated switchboard to specific people or departments.
Calls were then prioritised into Priority A or B.
Priority A calls are considered to have a higher level of threat, risk or harm, but are not emergencies. The force now aims to answer these calls within 10 minutes. After six minutes, the caller will be offered a call back within three hours. This is currently being developed and should be in place in the coming months. Last year, the average answer time was 2.34 minutes.
Priority B calls have a low level of threat, risk and harm and are not emergencies. The force aims or answer these within 15 minutes. After 10 minutes, the caller is offered a call back within six hours. Last year, the average answer time was 4.23 minutes.