Commissioner responds to claim he has “completely failed” to improve 101 police call response

Police Commisioner Sir Graham Bright.

Police Commisioner Sir Graham Bright. - Credit: Archant

Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Graham Bright has hit back at claims that attempts to improve 101 call handling have “completely failed”.

Councillor Mike Shellens.

Councillor Mike Shellens. - Credit: Archant

In a stinging attack, Cambridgeshire County Councillor Mike Shellens, who has sat on the Cambs Police and Crime Panel, said the handling of secondary calls was a source of “constant grief”.

If the service is not improved, the public could “shut off”, depriving police of “information they rely on to keep people safe”, he said.

His comments, on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, came after figures revealed the number of calls abandoned after 30 seconds had gone up by a third in the past year.

In April, the average waiting time for a call to be properly dealt with was six and a half minutes, with the longest response time almost an hour.

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Responding to the criticism, Sir Graham described the Cambs call centre as “one of the best in the country”.

He said he is “concerned” about secondary pick up times but insisted improvements were being made. Ten extra call handlers have been hired and technology introduced, which is already making a difference.

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He said: “I was very concerned initially that it was taking more than 30 seconds for the first call to be picked up. We’ve got that down to six or seven seconds.

“Now, the big problem is secondary pick up. The average time of three and a half to four minutes is too long.

“At a big cost, the equivalent to 10 frontline officers, we have hired extra staff to handle the calls. They need to be highly trained, which takes time.

“We are working with experts and introduced new technology last week. Staff tell me a queue buster system where people leave their number and we ring them back is already resulting in fewer people dropping out.

“I don’t think we have lost the confidence of the public but it’s very important we don’t lose it. That’s why I’m absolutely determined we’re going to crack it.

“Very often people have very important information which helps us. It’s essential for policing that we get this right.”

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