Durham Police told to improve response due to time taken to answer calls

The police inspectorate said Durham does some things well but there are concerns about its response to the public. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A police force has been told it needs to improve how it responds to the public after inspectors found 20% of non-emergency calls went unanswered.

Durham Police was also told to improve its response to 999 calls, as it answered 61% within 10 seconds, below the expected 90%.

Following an inspection by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), the force was also told it need to improve how it protects vulnerable people.

While Durham has the highest rate of repeat domestic violence, it is not making good use of protective measures, the inspectorate said.

However, it was rated as outstanding in tackling serious organised crime.

HMICFRS rated the force across 10 areas, finding it was outstanding in one area, good in two areas, adequate in five areas and requiring improvement in two areas.

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Roy Wilsher said: “I am pleased with some aspects of Durham Constabulary’s performance in keeping people safe, reducing crime and providing victims with an effective service.

“However, there are areas in which it needs to improve. The constabulary has a higher-than-average number of non-emergency calls, but it doesn’t always answer emergency and non-emergency calls as quickly as it should. While the constabulary has tried to prioritise where it puts its resources, it needs to do more to meet the public’s needs in all areas.

“While the constabulary has one of the highest rates of domestic abuse repeat incidents in England and Wales, it isn’t making good use of protective measures or effectively referring victims for support.

“We are assured that senior leaders have already started to plan how they will address the areas for improvement we have identified."

“I hope the changes that follow result in improvements that help Durham Constabulary better meet the public’s needs. We will be monitoring its progress closely.”

How did Durham Police perform?

Durham Police was rated in 10 areas. This is how the force performed:

  • Disrupting serious organised crime: Outstanding

  • Preventing crime: Good

  • Recording data about crime: Good

  • Investigating crime: Adequate

  • Police powers and public treatment: Adequate

  • Managing offenders: Adequate

  • Developing a positive workplace: Adequate

  • Leadership and force management: Adequate

  • Responding to the public: Requires improvement

  • Protecting vulnerable people: Requires improvement

Acting Chief Constable Ciaron Irvine said: “Organised crime causes very real harm to our communities, including violence, intimidation and the supply of drugs.

“Our officers will take on organised crime whenever and wherever we find it and in the last year our teams have taken significant numbers of criminals, drugs and weapons off the streets.

“We will do all we can to continually improve our performance and I am pleased to see this report highlight the outstanding dedication and commitment of our officers and staff to protect the communities we serve, by tackling those issues which matter most and cause greatest harm.”

Durham Police said it had recruited an extra 15 call handlers and nine switchboard staff to work in the control room, while there was also a new switchboard triage system which had halved the average time to answer a 101 call in recent months.

It said more than 75% of 999 calls were answered within 10 seconds.

It will start allowing members of the public to submit some queries and applications online from next year.

Acting Chief Constable Irvine added: “Investment has been made in the force control room and the speed at which we answer both 999 and 101 calls has increased significantly in recent months. With the support of the Police and Crime Commissioner, the constabulary will be further accelerating this improvement with additional technology investment early into the new year.

“The constabulary has also addressed the areas raised in the inspection with regard to protecting vulnerable people. Additional resource and revised processes have seen almost overnight improvements in this area, with further work to ensure consistently high-quality delivery already well advanced.

“Whilst there will be some concern that overall grades for the constabulary are lower, this must be seen in the context of the new inspection regime and I am confident that Durham Constabulary remains among the best performing police forces in the country.”

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