Avon and Somerset Police are boosting their 101 line with the extension of a switchboard service that helps prioritise non-emergency calls to their Communications Centre.
Yesterday’s announcement came as the Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner agreed funding to extend the service and keep it in place throughout 2016.
The switchboard is the first point of contact for people when they call 101. It helps identify those calls that need to be dealt with by trained police call handlers, and calls that are not relevant to police or need to be transferred to an internal department – these are actioned quickly by switchboard staff, resulting in an improved service for those who genuinely need help.
The temporary switchboard service was introduced following rising demand in some of the most complex crimes – in the twelve months to August 2015 reports of crimes involving vulnerable adults, for example, almost trebled. Reporting of domestic abuse crimes also rose by just over 20%.
Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Watson, who’s responsible for the force’s Communications service, said “Our way of working in the Communications Centre is designed to make sure we provide a high quality service and prioritise help and support for those who need us most.
“Demand is increasing and the nature of policing today means we must place calls about incidents that pose the greatest threat, harm and risk to victims at the very top of the list.
“The switchboard helps us to prioritise these calls but we need the public’s help to keep the 101 service running effectively.
“When contacting police, please think before you call and ask yourself – is my call really important and necessary? If you’re not sure, check our website first.
“You can also report crime online and find answers for many common enquires we receive. This can save you time and is available 24/7.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “At the end of 2015, I invested £25,000 of the PCC budget to maintain resources until the end of the financial year in the communications centre, to ensure levels of service and staff resources could be maintained.
“This extra funding will now continue throughout 2016 to ensure local people are receiving the service they have every right to expect.
“I am fully aware of the frustrations that many residents have faced when they cannot get through on the 101 non-emergency number and this is the reason I will be continuing to invest in this vital service.
“There is still work to do with 101 performance but with this continued support the service is one local people can have confidence in.”
Teams within the force’s Communications Centre are committed to providing a first class service, helping to change and save lives every day.
To support frontline services, Avon and Somerset Police have been running a campaign to help inform people on when to call police on 999 and 101 and promote their online crime reporting, which is quick and easy to use.