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Surrey’s 101 service being overwhelmed by Covid-19

November 24, 2020 1:30 PM

Paul Kennedy with Lib Dem stake boardSurrey's Liberal Democrat PCC candidate Paul Kennedy is calling on Surrey's Police Commissioner to act, as Lib Dem research reveals 30-40% of non-emergency calls to Surrey Police went unanswered in late summer. In August alone nearly 10,000 callers - representing 32% of total 101 calls - gave up in the face of a 4 minute average waiting time, while nearly 1,000 callers had to wait more than 20 minutes to get through.

August saw an increase in demand for both emergency (999) and non-emergency calls (101). There have been confused Government messages about coronavirus restrictions, and increased reports of antisocial behaviour, drugs and domestic abuse during lockdown.

Surrey Police received 29,042 calls to the 101 service in August, of which just 19,614 were answered, with 9,428 (32%) abandoned calls. In July, the 101 service received 21,055 calls, of which just 11,957 were answered, with 9,112 abandoned calls (43%). In August, average waiting time rose to 3 minutes 51 seconds, and 981 callers (5% of those who got through) had to wait for at least 20 minutes.

Paul Kennedy, a Mole Valley District Councillor, said:

"This huge number of abandoned calls represents thousands of missed reports a month about suspicious and antisocial behaviour, drug dealing, domestic abuse, thefts, assaults, vehicle and rural crime. The calls come from victims of crime and other concerned members of the public, many of them without access to other forms of communication."

"Residents are finding they cannot rely on 101. For example, one evening Beare Green residents tried to report the theft in progress of fish from their local pond. They called 101 but couldn't get through. They called 999 and were told this wasn't a priority and they should have called 101. In the end they went after the thieves themselves."

Paul said: "Surrey Police's professional telephone operators are working flat out to meet demand and keep us all safe, and fortunately they are still able to respond to emergencies; but they are being overwhelmed because of Covid-19 restrictions at work, and because operators are unable to work from home."