Headlines: October 24th, 2002

Police forces have been warned that their work in reducing crime could be damaged by public dissatisfaction over the way non-emergency calls are dealt with. The Home Office Minister, John Denham, has called for a shake up in the handling of such calls.The results of the British Crime Survey show that people who have had direct contact with the police are less satisfied with the service forces provide than those who have not, including those who have been victims of crime.

Mr Denham said there was a danger that good police work, which had helped to bring about a 20 per cent drop in crime in recent years, could be tarnished if people were dissatisfied with their first contact with the police. It was essential, he said, to give greater priority to the quality of contact between the public and the police.

The government now plans to pilot a single national shared non-emergency number in an effort to improve public confidence in the police.

“Members of the public are rightly frustrated at the difficulties they experience when trying to contact the police on non-urgent matters. A number of forces already have dedicated call centres to deal with non-urgent calls and we are encouraging other forces to take similar steps to ensure a high quality of service for the public, ” he said.

Mr. Denham went on, ” The police face a big challenge to provide consistent standards of service. The variations in call handling that currently exist are unacceptable. It is vital that we look at ways of improving public contact with police to develop national standards and ensure that everyone receives the same high quality service, responsive to their needs, irrespective of where they live.”

Research shows that the number of calls to the police is rising and that more than 70 per cent of calls made last year were not urgent.