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Home office minister John Denham today called for a shake up in the...
Home office minister John Denham today called for a shake up in the

way that police deal with non-emergency calls from the public.

Speaking in Sussex, Mr Denham said that there was a danger that good

police work, which has helped achieve an overall 20 per cent drop in

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.

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