Thousands of calls to Cheshire Constabulary’s non-emergency number have gone unanswered over a seven-month period this year, the Chronicle can reveal.
Of the 235,295 calls made to 101 between April and October 2015, 5,543 were not picked up, according to figures released by the force through a Freedom of Information request.
Call handlers received in excess of 30,000 calls in each of those months and on average 792 calls were not answered each month.
The highest volume of 101 calls – 37,579 – were made in July, which was also the month of the highest number of unanswered calls.
What is 101 for?
101, which was rolled out across all forces in England between 2011 and 2012, is the number to call to report crime and other concerns that do not require an emergency response.
Callers are given the choice of which police force they want to be connected to.
Such calls are answered by staff and police officers in the control room of the local police force, so staff with local knowledge can respond appropriately.
'Value' every call
A Cheshire Constabulary spokesman said they value every 101 call and aim to answer them ‘ideally within 30 seconds’.
He explained that the force is also responsible for emergency 999 calls which have to take priority when they arrive at the same time as 101 calls.
“The figures work out at around 98 calls answered out of 100, which we consider to be acceptable,” he said.
“But we are not complacent and strive to answer every call we receive to ensure that we are here where you need us, when you need us.”
He added that call handlers sometimes do not have the opportunity to answer calls because they ring in error or end calls prematurely.
While they use historical and industry software to predict demand and allocate the number of call operators accordingly, he said some periods can be ‘unpredictable and busier than anticipated’ so delays in answering may cause the caller to ring off and try again later.