Police forces are at risk of being “overwhelmed” by a rising number of emergency calls from members of the public as cuts to public services “shift demand on to the police”, a watchdog has warned.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICFRS) said calls to 999 had risen by 11 per cent over two years in England and Wales, and that a 10-second target for answering them was being missed.
A report published on Thursday said that some 999 calls were not being answered for more than two minutes, adding: “Failing to answer within target times could indicate the increasing pressure from more 999 calls that may or may not be about an emergency.”
In the same period, calls to the 101 non-emergency number fell by 13 per cent. HMICFRS said that long waiting times and poor performance were causing some people to lose confidence and dial 999 instead.
Calls to both numbers dropped dramatically during the coronavirus lockdown, but crime is now returning to previous levels and some police forces have reported high numbers of people reporting lockdown violations.
“We are helping the police respond to changing demand by giving policing the biggest funding increase in a decade and supporting forces to recruit 20,000 extra police officers over the next three years.”