The latest in a long line of setbacks comes after users were promised significant improvements to ease the call-taking process at Atlas Court, South Yorkshire Police’s Sheffield communications hub where all calls go, which launched in a revised format late last year.
The Chronicle understands ‘teething problems’ have been encountered with the new software - the average waiting time for people dialling 101 now stands at five minutes and 34 seconds with 999 calls averaging a 15-second hold.
The call abandonment rate was about 40 per cent last year and is now 21 per cent, while a call-back feature has been implemented.
However, a crime meeting held in Cudworth saw residents and councillors discuss 101 alongside police, who were told response times were still ‘abysmal’ and the system is ‘fundamentally broken’.
Shafton resident Dave Harmer told police at the meeting that people are disillusioned with using 101 to report matters such as illegal off-road bikers.
He said: “The system is fundamentally broken - people have lost all confidence in the police as there’s no reaction even if you do persevere and get through to an operator.
“Your report seemingly disappears into the ether and you’re none the wiser if it’s done any good or not. Banging your head against a brick wall hurts and people are stopping from doing so.”
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “A high number of calls are from those chasing updates for crimes. Reducing this type of demand creates capacity to manage public calls more effectively.
“The 101 system has been a cause of great frustration since before I became commissioner. We commissioned new IT and in 2018 a new system, Smart Contact, was introduced.
“As expected, there were some initial delays reported in people trying to contact us via 101 as our staff began to use the system in a full 24/7 operational environment.
“However, these have reduced significantly now and will continue as our staff continue gain experience with this new IT.”
The force currently takes around 14,000 non-emergency calls on the 101 lines each day, with another 700 on average going through the 999 system, with demand on both growing in recent years.
“Demand on all police forces is high and it’s vitally important that the 101 and 999 lines be used appropriately so that those who need to get through quickly can,” Dr Billings added.
“We are fully aware that the ability for people to get through quickly and speak to someone can affect public confidence and increase complaints.”