101 matters: why it’s important to look at both urgency and emergency

Serious crimes are being reported via the “non-urgent” number.

You’ve found the courage to phone the police and tell them what’s happened. It may have just taken place, or it’s a crime you’ve discovered once you’ve got home. Or you just need to update an Officer or crime report.

After we got Kent’s 101 performance on track and doing well, I’ve been told it’s slipped recently and I’m deeply sorry that waiting times have slipped. There’s work underway to improve them again.

You’ll have heard from senior Officers and others that answering 999 calls is a priority. And you can understand why if it needs an immediate response and/or the crime is in progress. Our call handling teams are frontline heroes dealing with serious matters and helping victims of crime.

However, something I’ve noticed from my inquiry into violence against women and girls is that a lot of serious crimes are being reported via 101, including rapes, sexual assaults and stalking. Not just a few, but a lot. 27% of rapes and a third of sexual offences force example.

With 101 waiting times a focus of public attention, and the most common contact point for the public in terms of volume are we giving victims confidence if they’re in a queue?

I’ve done some analysis of data from Police Forces on their 101 waiting times and the recording of four specific areas – rape, burglary, stalking and hate crimes.

From the 31 Forces that replied to the request, the average 101 waiting time was 3 minutes and 35 seconds for the whole of 2021. Some were answering within seconds, one force on average in over ten minutes.

I’ve been assured locally that the crime type is treated the same and goes through the same threat and risk assessment if the victim phones via 999 or 101.

I asked Forces about four different crime types and how many were reported via 101 in 2021 – rape, burglary, stalking and hate crimes.

28 Forces responded to say that 15,433 rapes had been reported this way. With over 63,000 being reported to Police to the year ending September 2021, that is a significant number.

Stalking data was again disappointing, with Forces saying they put it together in one category with harassment. But there were still 13,000 incidents recorded by 15 Forces.

The 31 Forces also recorded over 79,000 burglaries and over 38,000 hate crimes via this method, with one Force assuring me “call handlers prioritise 999 emergency calls”.

This may well be the case and the reasons well understood, but given the levels of crime being reported via other methods, 101 cannot be neglected, and an area that any future uplift programme should look to invest in.

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