Police stations still telling public'use your phone to report crime'

Rob Preece Crime Correspondent

WITNESSES who visit Yorkshire police stations to report crimes are still being advised to phone call centres instead – months after senior officers began an investigation into complaints.

Humberside Police was heavily criticised in April after members of the public complained that they were turned away and told to report offences over the phone.

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But next week councillors will hear how “mystery shoppers” who visited 25 of the force’s police stations in July and August faced similar problems when they tried to report crimes.

Visitors at two of the stations were “pressurised or even guided” to use the phone rather than give details face to face, a report to Humberside Police Authority reveals.

Another mystery shopper found that the hearing loop in Hornsea police station was broken – and probably had not worked for a year.

Parking seems to be a problem at most of the police stations,” the report adds, “with even fewer having a dedicated accessible parking bay.”

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Visitors to some stations had to use car parks at a nearby supermarket or gymnasium. In July the force was urged to make improvements to its stations in Grimsby and Immingham – the only two open to the public in North East Lincolnshire – because neither offered disabled parking.

The report suggests that the force should work harder to “reinforce a professional team image” and make sure details given to visitors are up-to-date.

Information packs about hate crime given to mystery shoppers in Driffield, Goole and Cottingham were out of date.

The report also suggests that some stations were closed for “operational reasons” during their advertised opening hours but visitors were given little advice on where else to go.

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The research was commissioned after the force began an internal investigation into complaints from the public.

Hessle shopkeeper Graham Taylor told the Yorkshire Post in April that he had stopped a Humberside Police officer in the street to ask for help in catching two thieves, only to be advised: “Ring the police”.

Mr Taylor chased two teenagers who stole two bottles of spirits from his newsagents before spotting the officer.

Mr Taylor claimed the officer told him to use his phone instead but, even after dialling 999, the radio call was missed.

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Later that month, Andy Bevan claimed he was told to phone a call centre when he went to Hessle police station to report that his car had been vandalised.

Mr Bevan said a community support officer told him he could not report the crime in person and handed him a card with a phone number on it.

Chief Inspector Paul Cunningham said call-handlers were best placed to put witnesses and victims through to the department they need.

People should be able to go into police stations to report crime,” he said, “but the best service you can get is on the telephone because you will be dealing with people who work on these enquiries every day and every night. People should be encouraged to speak to the call centres because, that way, they will get a definitive answer from one person who can give expert advice and nothing will be lost in translation.

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“Work on these issues is ongoing and we have to get it right so that people who go to the trouble to attend police stations get an excellent service.”

Mr Cunningham said Humberside was one of few forces in the country to be rated “good” in recent inspections focused on visibility and accountability.

He added that the force would look at its parking provision and promised that new signs in its police stations would make opening hours clearer.

Comment: Page 12.