Scotland’s police chief had admitted callers trying to report non-urgent crimes by calling 101 are facing unacceptable delays, with average wait times now at five minutes.
Chief constable Iain Livingstone revealed to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) that people are having to wait on hold for longer when they call 101 as the increasingly busy force has to prioritise 999 calls.
He explained there were more than 666,000 calls to the police during the first quarter of the 2021-22 financial year, with a shift towards emergency 999 calls.
Between April and June this year, there were 30,000 more 999 calls compared to the same period in 2020, with an average answer time of 10 seconds.
But the time taken to answer 101 calls, where people are encouraged to report non-urgent crimes, has slipped to five minutes, Mr Livingstone said.
“The average length of time that it takes us to answer a 101 non-emergency call has increased recently and I genuinely, truly regret and understand the frustration this has created for the public who are dialling and wishing to speak to the police,” he told the SPA.
“How we respond to contact from members of the public is absolutely crucial to ensure the public get the help that they need and that they deserve, and that their confidence in their police service is maintained and retained,” he said.
“As Chief Constable, I am personally very concerned that people will wait longer to be connected and I reiterate my regret about long waiting times experienced by some of our fellow citizens.”
Addressing the SPA board meeting on Wednesday, Mr Livingstone continued: “I reassure you, colleagues, we continue to prioritise 999 emergency calls and – despite this really significant increase in such emergency contacts – on average, we continue to answer emergency calls within 10 seconds.
“However, people calling the non-emergency 101 number are waiting longer to have their calls answered and this was, on average, five minutes in the month of June.
“In a few individual cases, there was considerably longer call answer times which I really regain for the people who have called us.”
Mr Livingstone also suggested that a new method of call handling, with an improved assessment of “threat, risk and harms” for the caller as well as Covid-related questions have contributed to longer call lengths, although physical distancing requirements have now been eased in police buildings.
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