way that police deal with non-emergency calls from the public.
Speaking in Sussex, Mr Denham said that there was a danger that good
crime in recent years, could be tarnished if they were dissatisfied
with their first contact with the police.
Findings from the British Crime Survey 2000 indicate that members of
the public who have had direct contact with the police are less
satisfied with the service provided than those who have not,
including those who have been victims of crime.
Mr Denham said:
'It is essential that we give greater priority to the quality of
contact between the public and the police, from the initial response
to calls for service onwards.
'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
'Research shows that the number of calls to the police is rising and
more than 70 per cent of calls made to the police last year were
non-urgent. 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.
'Next year we will pilot a single national shared non-emergency
number to improve public confidence in policing. But all forces need
to ensure they are making higher standards of call handling a
1. Mr Denham was speaking at Sussex police's 'Choosing the Future'
conference today. The conference aims to demonstrate how technology
can aid policing and reduce crime.
2. Research undertaken by the home office in January 2002 revealed
that nine forces had a dedicated single non-emergency number for
their force area. They were Sussex, Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall,
West Mercia, Leicestershire, Gloucestershire, South Yorkshire, Avon
and Somerset and West Yorkshire.
3. The home office is working with police forces to pilot a single
non-emergency number next year.
4. Home office research shows that 8.4 million 999 calls were made to
the police service in 2001 and 70% of these calls (5.8 million) did
not require an emergency response.
5. The inspector of constabulary's annual report for 2001 reported
that the number of 999 calls to the police had risen by more than 30%
in the four-years up to the report. In 1996/7 the number of calls
stood at 7,297,219; in 2000/01 the figure was 9,597,934.
6. The British Crime Survey 2000 revealed that 40 per cent of victims
felt that police had not shown enough interest in their crime, while
47 per cent felt they had not made enough effort.
7. Other channels of communication with police being developed
include alerting police to non-urgent crimes through the internet.
8. Non-emergency access to police was highlighted in the white paper
'Policing a New Century: A Blueprint for Reform' here.