Call police on 101... and wait 51 seconds
THOUSANDS of people are hanging up because they are fed up of waiting for police to answer calls reporting crimes or anti-social behaviour.
Around one in 10 of the 31,000-plus callers a month to the new 101 non-emergency number ring off because the average time it takes for the force to pick up has more than trebled in a year.
The national system was brought in for people to make less urgent calls than for 999 emergencies.
Its remit is for the public to report incidents such as car thefts, property damage, suspected drug dealing, minor road crashes and general low level criminal activity.
But latest figures issued under the Freedom of Information Act show the average wait time for the control room to answer soared from 15 seconds in November 2011 to 50.9 seconds in October last year.
Only 700 of the 28,190 callers hung up during the first month covered by the data but that had risen to 3,122 out of 31,163 people dialling 101 in October 2012. The delays have forced urgent action by the force which says in the first two months of this year the wait fell to an average of 40 seconds.
Now neighbourhood watch leaders in North Staffordshire are to raise the poor performance with senior police officers at the next of their regular meetings.
Tony Worthington, vice-chairman of the Staffordshire Moorlands Watch and chairman of the Biddulph and District Neighbourhood Watch, said: "It is of real concern if so many people are hanging up rather than reporting a crime because of these delays.
"The 0300 number used to work well – but now before you are put through you have to listen to an automated message from the chef constable saying how important your call is.
"We will be raising this urgently with the police and also ask our members for any experiences of problems they may have had."
Brian Jones, chairman of the Stoke-on Trent forum of residents' associations, told how it took him four minutes to get through to police after a recent attempt to break into his Meir home.
He said: "The process is so long-winded now and you have to pay 11p for each call.
"An a play area locally, youngsters have called 101 to report people trying to sell them drugs but then hang up after waiting four or five minutes with no reply."
Superintendent Dave Forrest, head of operational services for Staffordshire Police, said: "We always aim to answer calls as quickly as possible and have a target of answering 999 emergency calls within 10 seconds and 101 non-emergency calls within 30 seconds. Our latest customer surveys show 97 per cent of people who call us are satisfied with the ease of contact they have. Our priority is to provide the best possible service to the communities of Staffordshire."