Sussex Police chief defends amount of time it takes for 999 and 101 calls to be answered

Chief Constable Jo Shiner and Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne. Image: Sussex Police
Chief Constable Jo Shiner and Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne. Image: Sussex Police

During a meeting with Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, it was reported that 88.8 per cent of 999 calls were answered in 10 seconds or less in August and 84.1 per cent in July.

While Jo Shiner said she was comfortable with those figures, she described them as ‘fragile’ and acknowledged that she would like to see all calls answered inside 10 seconds.

Sussex Police received around 32,000 more emergency calls covering 999, 101 and online reports in the year up to August 31 – a 12 per cent increase.

While this reflected national trends, switchboard staff dealing with the calls were not helped by an influx of inadvertent ‘silent’ 999 calls from Android phones.

In June, the National Police Chiefs Council reported that a recent update to the Android software added an SOS emergency function which was activated when the power button was pressed five times or more.

Like other Forces, Sussex Police endured its share of such calls, while also trying to answer genuine calls.

Perhaps the biggest issue to impact the figures was the eight-second time lag caused by infrastructure and network delays from BT.

Chief constable Shiner said new technology should be in place by the end of the month which should see Sussex Police move from 33rd to 9th out of 42 Forces when it came to call answering time.

Hence the reason for calling the figures ‘fragile’.

She added: “This is about making sure we’re delivering the right service for the public rather than chasing targets.”

When it came to 101 non-emergency calls, the average wait time for an answer was seven minutes 42 seconds despite a 17 per cent reduction in such calls.

Chief constable Shiner put this down largely to the introduction of new software and said ‘blips’ had been expected.

She reported that in October 2022 the waiting time averaged 14 minutes – but by August it was back down to three minutes 50 seconds.

She added: “I’m really confident that we are absolutely headed in the right direction.”