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Commissioner Hails ‘Dramatic’ Improvement in 999 and 101 Call Answering Times

Published on: 12 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 13 Mar, 2024

PCC Lisa Townsend

Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend has hailed the dramatic improvement in Surrey Police response times. New figures revealed that current waiting times are the lowest on record.

The Commissioner said that in the last five months, Surrey Police has seen sustained progress in how quickly callers to the 999 and non-emergency 101 numbers are able to speak to contact centre staff.

The latest provisional data shows that, as of this February, 97.8 per cent of 999 calls were answered within the national target of 10 seconds. This compares to only 54 per cent in March last year, and is the highest data on Force record.

Meanwhile, the average time in February that it took Surrey Police to answer calls to the non-emergency 101 number fell to 36 seconds, the lowest wait times on Force record. This compares to 715 seconds in March 2023.

In January 2024, the Force answered almost 93 per cent of 999 calls within ten seconds. The February figures have been confirmed by the Force, and awaiting verification from call provider BT.

In December last year, a report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Services (HMICFRS) highlighted concerns around the service residents receive when they contact police on 999, 101 and digital 101.

Inspectors visited Surrey Police during the summer as part of their Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy (PEEL) review. They rated the Force’s performance in responding to the public as ‘inadequate’ and said improvements were needed.

Chief Constable Tim De Meyer

The Commissioner and the Chief Constable also heard residents’ experiences of contacting Surrey Police during the recent ‘Policing Your Community’ roadshow where in-person and online events were held in all 11 boroughs across the county.

Commissioner Lisa Townsend said: “I know from speaking to residents that being able to get hold of Surrey Police when you need them is absolutely vital.

“Unfortunately there were times last year when residents calling 999 and 101 were not always getting the service they deserved and this was a situation that urgently needed to be addressed.

“I know how frustrating it has been for some people trying to get through, particularly to the non-emergency 101 during busy times.

“I have spent a lot of time in our contact centre seeing how our call handlers deal with the varied and often challenging calls they receive and they do a phenomenal job.

“But staff shortages were putting an incredible strain on them and I know the Force have been working incredibly hard to improve the situation and the service our public receive.

“My office has been supporting them throughout that process so I am delighted to see that the answering times are the best they have ever been.

“That means that when our residents do need to contact Surrey Police, they are having their call answered quickly and efficiently.

“This has not been a quick fix – we have seen these improvements sustained over the last five months and with the measures now in place I am confident going forward that Surrey Police will maintain this level of service when responding to the public.”

Paul Kennedy, a Lib councillor who has been nominated to stand against Conservative Lisa Townsend in May said: “I congratulate Surrey Police on turning around last year’s unacceptable 999/101 performance, after December’s critical PEEL inspection report.

Their quick turnaround exposes the failure and irrelevance of Surrey’s Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), who had been in denial about deteriorating police performance for two and a half years.

It shouldn’t require an external inspection to expose and address poor performance. 6 out of 7 repeat assessments had deteriorated since 2021/22.

I warned about call delays during the 2021 PCC elections, in which I came second with 112,000 votes. If I’d won, I’d have fixed them, and more besides.

Instead thousands of callers have waited nearly 12 minutes on average to get their 101 calls answered, with many crimes not reported at all. And precious seconds have been lost in saving lives and catching criminals as nearly half of 999 calls missed the national target response time.”

By way of background, here is my press release last December following the publication of the PEEL report:

PEEL report brands Surrey Police response times ‘inadequate’<

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