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Express & Star comment: 101 figures give police bad name

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

Your call is important to us. Please hold while we play you some tiresome music and you become bored out of your brain. One of our operators will be with you in a few hours or so.

And if you do insist on sticking with it, you may want to put on a full length movie to pass the time.

Perhaps there should be a message to callers to the West Midlands Police non-emergency 101 hotline to the effect of the above, to screen out all callers except those with infinite patience.

If you want to be cynical, you could see this as a highly effective way of bringing down levels of reported crime. All you have to do is make it impossible for people to report it.

The police say the dreadful 101 call response figures are from one of their busy periods, and the usual average is a maximum wait of 11 minutes. That's still an eternity.

There can be no surprise then that according to a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, fewer people are using the 101 "service," through getting a lack of a response within an acceptable period

People abandon their call, and there is evidence of a trend to ring 999 instead. That's the emergency, instant response service, or supposed to be – again in the West Midlands, it took nearly 10 minutes to answer one 999 call. Bank robbers don't need that long to make their getaway.

So what we are moving towards is the worst of all worlds, of a rubbish 101 service which was supposed to take pressure off the 999 service, and more pressure on the 999 service.

It is no good merely saying the delays in answering 101 calls are unacceptable. Public confidence is collapsing. What counts is whether the police show they are serious about the 101 number, and prepared to put in the resources to make it work for the public. Because if they don't, then the public can ask this – if the police are not taking the 101 number seriously, why should we?

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Meanwhile, the number of hoax calls to West Midlands Ambulance Service is averaging around 1,000 a year.

If you've watched the Ambulance television show, you know how crushingly busy ambulance services can be, with patients and anguished relatives left waiting for one to turn up as other incidents are prioritised, whereas their granny lying injured is naturally their own desperate priority.

And all you can say about these figures is that the people who make these hoax calls have got something wrong with them.

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