COUNTY: Dorset Police have revealed some of the time-wasting calls that have clogged up the 101 non-emergency phone lines this year as the force battles to reduce the waiting time for calls to be answered.
A panicked resident reported a large seagull sitting in the middle of a communal hallway in a block of flats, a pet owner phoned the police after their cat became out of control and one caller wanted to report they couldn’t access wifi on their mobile phone.
The force has apologised for the ‘unacceptable’ delays in answering non-emergency phone calls.
It has failed to reach its target of answering 75 per cent of calls within 30 seconds as it struggles to cope with the unprecedented demand during the busy summer months.
Extra staff are now being drafted in by the police to try and cope with demand, as 1,500 more calls are being made each week to the 101 number compared to last year.
Sixty per cent of calls go unanswered for nearly a minute.
The police have said that the increase in calls is not due to an increase in crime, but the fact that a large number of calls to the 101 line were not for police to deal with.
Emergency calls to 999 have not been affected by the delays.
Dorset Police have released 12 examples of some of the calls that operators on the 101 non-emergency line dealt with in the past 12 months. These include someone who was unhappy when the wrong order was delivered by a takeaway, a shopper who wanted to report a faulty photo booth in Boots and someone who wanted a lift.
Other time-wasting callers included a parent whose son was refusing to go to school, a resident with an overheated boiler and someone who had a problem paying their phone bill.
Police are urging people to think twice before they call 101.
Jane Jennings, head of contact management at Dorset Police, said: “Some people phone the police in error; please consider whether your enquiry is a police issue or is a matter for another organisation, before making the call. An unprecedented increase in calls has caused a temporary dip in our non-emergency phone service.
“I apologise for this and reassure the public that we are recruiting more staff to improve waiting times and callers’ overall experience.”
“We are encouraging people to use our ‘Do It Online’ service for non-emergency issues whenever possible. This includes options to make a general enquiry or pass a message to an officer. It also allows people to request a telephone callback while avoiding 101 waiting times.
“I would also reassure people that our 999 service is not affected by these delays and remind them to always use this number for emergencies. People should call 999 when life or property is in immediate danger or when they are witnessing a crime that is currently taking place.”
The call increases have also coincided with the amalgamation of the enquiry centre and the force control room, which have been transformed into the Force Command Centre at the police’s headquarters in Winfrith, which has also contributed to the delays.
Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “The introduction of the new Force Contact Centre and an unprecedented rise in call demand ahead of the busiest time of the year for Dorset Police has created a perfect storm.
“This has led to unacceptable delays and for that I apologise on behalf of the Force. I am working hard with the Chief Constable to ensure Dorset Police provides an effective and efficient service to residents across the county.”