'Keep 999 free for emergencies' - Plea from handlers dealing with 300,000 calls a year to Northamptonshire Police

Call 101 or use online instead of on the phone to report anything non-urgent, says top officer

Friday, 12th November 2021, 4:03 pm
Updated Monday, 15th November 2021, 7:26 am
Northamptonshire Police controls room takes nearly 900 calls a day — but not all of them are emergencies

Police call handlers in Northamptonshire are asking non-urgent callers to go online rather than use the phone to keep lines clear for 999 emergencies.

The force control room fields more than 300,000 calls a year — but not all of them need an immediate response.

And the shout has gone out to remind the public of other ways to get in touch, by going online or dialing 101 and asking for a call back when things are not so busy.

Superintendent Emily Vernon, who heads the control room, said: “Every year, we take hundreds of thousands of calls into the control room. Not all of these are emergencies and not all of these require an immediate police response.

“Inevitably what happens is that the queue builds up because everyone is trying to call one central call centre. This can lead to long wait times. We want to better inform people of the options available to them if it’s not an emergency.

“Of course, for real emergencies, we would expect you to call 999.

“But for non-emergencies, a range of things can be reported online at your convenience at northants.police.uk — from road traffic collisions and fraud to anti-social behaviour and missing people.

"Alternatively, you can ring 101 and select a call back option to allow one of our staff to call you back at a more convenient time.

"Using these options doesn’t mean you get a lesser service. It just allows us to manage calls and deal with the public in a different way."

In the 12 months to April 2021, the force received 314,136 calls, averaging 861 a day. On average, 298 of those calls were made to 999.

By comparison only 168 crimes were recorded per day meaning under 20 percent of calls in the past year were crimes.

Of the others, 24 percent calls related to ‘public safety and welfare – such as missing people or weather-related incidents — 942 calls related to noise, 21,736 transport related calls and 1,112 civil disputes. Another 140 were hoax calls.

With more and more people going online for things such as mobile banking, the force hopes to raise awareness of how the public can help reduce wait times by going digital and keeping 999 and 101 free for people who really need to speak to the police.