Police forced to clarify 999 figures

PUBLISHED: 09:52 18 May 2009 | UPDATED: 13:55 03 July 2010

NORFOLK police have been forced to issue a clarification to claims that 999 response times had improved after figures showed officers are actually taking longer to arrive at the most serious incidents.

NORFOLK police have been forced to issue a clarification to claims that 999 response times had improved after figures showed officers are actually taking longer to arrive at the most serious incidents.

Earlier this week the force's media department issued a statement in which chief constable Ian McPherson was quoted as saying service had improved since 29 of Norfolk's 35 emergency response bases were scrapped. Similar suggestions were made in a radio interview.

In the statement, Mr McPherson said: “The response times - the first to be published since the shape of frontline policing in Norfolk changed at the start of April - are an early indication that our recent modernisation is providing the public with an improved service.”

Although the time in which officers responded to grade B or non-immediate calls has significantly improved, the time it takes to respond to the most urgent crimes has increased. This fact was not reported in the statement.

A spokesman said this was an oversight and there was a need for “further clarification to ensure that it was properly understood within the context of the overall picture”. There was no deliberate attempt to mislead the public. Mr McPherson remains adamant that this will eventually lead to an improved service.

This time last year it took an average of seven minutes and 35 seconds to respond to so-called grade A incidents in urban areas whereas at present it takes an average of eight minutes and 19 seconds.

In rural areas officers are currently averaging a response time of 12 minutes and nine seconds - against last year's average of 11 minutes and 42 seconds.

It is understood that the actual journey times have decreased thanks to new technology which tracks every vehicle meaning controllers know where officers are at all times.

However, the delays are due to controllers taking longer to dispatch cars as they adapt to the new system. The force remains confident that once the new system “beds in” performance will improve significantly.

The force has also increased its maximum target response time in urban areas from 10 minutes to 15 - although this is in line with new national Home Office guidelines adopted by all forces. The rural target remains at 20 minutes.

In the original statement, Mr McPherson went on to say: “Using a state-of-the-art automatic vehicle location system, complemented by satellite navigation, our officers are able to respond to emergency calls faster, with controllers in the contact and control room being able to identity the locations of officers' vehicles, sending the nearest, most appropriate resource to callers.

“The fastest vehicles are no longer waiting at bases to be deployed - instead, they are patrolling the county 24/7, ready to respond the instant they are needed.”

However, in a fresh statement, a police spokesman provided a new explanation.

The statement said: “The chief said on the (Radio Norfolk) programme that we were maintaining our response times (in relation to Grade A urban and B priority calls). We have significantly improved our response to Grade B calls (not requiring an immediate response) and we have put more officers on the beat - exactly what the public told us they wanted.”

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