Volume of 999 calls to North Yorkshire Police rising, police chiefs warn

The volume of 999 calls to North Yorkshire Police's control room is rising police chiefs have warned, as waiting times for 101 have pushed added pressure onto the emergency service.

New figures released today (Tuesday) show a 25 per cent increase in the number of calls to the force's 999 number this month compared to last year.

The spike over the last 12 months peaked on June 18, when the force's control room received more calls than on New Year's Eve - historically its busiest day of the year.

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The announcement over rising 999 calls comes after a scrutiny panel this month called for an urgent review of the call handling system at North Yorkshire Police after concerns were raised about whether it was “fit for purpose”.

Deputy Chief Constable Lisa Winward, said: “Like most forces across the country, we are currently experiencing high demand in the Force Control Room with an increase in calls – particularly 999 calls - of around 20 percent since May 2017. For example, on Sunday 18 June, we received more calls than on New Year’s Eve, which historically is our busiest day of the year and is planned for in advance.

“I would like to reassure members of the public that we are implementing a number of measures to help deal with the unprecedented increase in demand, now and into the future, but this cannot be done overnight."

North Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel has been putting pressure on Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, Julia Mulligan, following recent poor performance of the 101 service, which can be used to report non-urgent issues to the force.

At a meeting of the scrutiny board, panel members expressed concern after hearing reports some residents spent up to six hours on the phone waiting to speak to someone in the police’s control room - and that some residents had either to abandon their call or consider calling the 999 emergency number instead.

Det Chf Con Winward added: “999 emergency calls must take precedence over non-emergencies, and the increase is having a knock-on effect on the time it takes to answer non-emergency calls. We ask the public to please bear with us as we implement the improvement measures over the coming months.

“Our control room staff are working extremely hard as we work to service the increase in demand and implement the changes. It is a very fast-paced and pressurised environment and I must pay tribute to the commitment and resilience they have shown during this time."

She urged people to use the 101 service in "the correct circumstances".

"Our website provides information on when to contact the police" Det Chf Con Winward added.

"The best way to contact us and when to call other agencies such as the council.

“Always call 999 if your safety threatened or in an emergency situation.”

Between July 2 and July 24 this year, 6,114 calls were made to the force's 999 service, and a further 20,498 to its 101 number.

The volume of 999 is a 25 per cent increase on 2016, and there were more than 1,000 more 101 calls this month than the previous year.

PCC Ms Mulligan told the crime panel this month that the issue was not purely in North Yorkshire, but that a similar trend has been seen in police forces nationwide.

Last week The Yorkshire Post revealed that South Yorkshire Police was also having major issues with its 101 service as callers took to 999 to report minor incidents because they had run out of credit on their mobile phones.