The police forces taking longest to answer 999 calls

The data, based on 5.2 million 999 calls to forces across the UK between last November and April, showed 29 per cent of them were not answered within the target time of 10 seconds. This would equate to nearly three million in a year.

Just 11 forces – a quarter of the 44 constabularies – were within the target with their average time to answer. Northumbria took the longest, at 33.3 seconds on average. By contrast, Lincolnshire and Avon and Somerset averaged just six seconds for each one of their calls.

One in 20,999 calls across all forces took more than a minute to answer, equivalent to 500,000 a year and six times the target timescale. It ranged from 16 per cent in Northumbria to none in Northamptonshire.

A Home Office source said: “With considerable variation across the country, this information will empower all forces to bring their service up to the public’s expectations.”

‘Second-rate service’

Rick Muir, director of the Police Foundation – which led a commission on the future of policing – said response times were critical in saving lives, protecting people from harm and solving crime. “Speed ​​of response is essential,” he said. “The fact that they are not hitting the target is concerning.”

David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham University, said the combination of rising crime, falling prosecution rates and longer response times was worrying. “It’s part of a pattern where we are being given a second-rate service from what should be a first-rate organization,” he said.

It follows warnings by HM Inspectorate of Police that forces are in danger of being overwhelmed by a surge in 999 calls driven by a lack of confidence in the non-emergency 101 line. It found 999 calls rose by 11 per cent in two years and a quarter of forces were often “overwhelmed” by demand.

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Some forces said as many as 30 per cent of 999 calls now involved issues, such as mental health crises, that should be dealt with by other organizations such as the NHS.

This is having a knock-on effect on response times. Freedom of information requests from 22 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales suggested that officers were now 28 per cent slower to attend grade one emergencies after receiving 999 calls than six years ago

This equates to taking three minutes longer on average to arrive at serious incidents – up from 11 minutes and 20 seconds in 2015, to 14 minutes and 30 seconds in 2021, according to the data obtained by the BBC.

Asst Chief Constable Alan Todd, for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said prank calls, a lag time in connecting and inappropriate use of 999 to call for issues that are not emergencies could all contribute to delays in answering.

“We will learn from this data in order to improve the speed at which 999 calls are answered, so that the public can expect the fastest possible response when calling 999,” he said.

Boris Johnson has previously raised concerns that working from home is less productive. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for government efficiency, has been tasked with getting civil servants back into the office.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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