Sussex Police set to top the table for answering 999 calls within ten seconds for the third month in a row

Sussex Police looks set to top the table for answering 999 calls within ten seconds for the third month in a row.
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Sussex Police looks set to top the table for answering 999 calls within ten seconds for the third month in a row.

The news was shared during a performance and accountability meeting on Friday (February 16), which was chaired by Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.

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Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Howard Hodges said: “Our performance has improved dramatically and we’re incredibly proud that we’re in the position we are.”

Sussex Police Sussex Police
Sussex Police

In December, 93.9 per cent of the 20,148 999 calls received by the force were answered inside ten seconds.

In January, it rose to 98 per cent.

While a full break-down of the figures was not yet available for January, December’s showed that 1,091 calls (5.1 per cent) took between ten and 60 seconds to answer and 228 calls (1.1 per cent) took more than 60 seconds.

The meeting was told that February’s figures looked to be on course to top the table as well.

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T/ACC Hodges said: “What we can’t do is be complacent around that – we have to keep the pressure on.”

He cited several reasons for the recent improvement in the number of calls answered so quickly – with technology being top of the list.

He said a new telephony platform had ‘transformed’ how staff dealt with calls, making it simple to jump between 999 and 101 calls without having to log in and out of the relevant systems.

Less time was spent on admin, planning and rostering thanks to the workforce management system, and the control centre had been assigned a dedicated Chief Inspector to keep things running.

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But T/ACC Hodges was quick to praise the efforts of the force’s staff.

He said: “The performance isn’t just about the technology.

“The staff in the room – and it is a pressure cooker environment to work in the control room – have absolutely embraced the need to improve the performance and they’ve embraced the technology as well.”

Non-emergency 101 calls have been a thorn in the side for a number of years, with the average answering time sitting at 20 minutes in 2017/18.

T/ACC Hodges reported that the average answering time in January was one minute 28 seconds, with around 22,500 calls being made.

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He said: “Technology is a key enabler here because its allowing us to be more fleet of foot in relation to how we are able to answer those calls and route those calls really efficiently to available operators.”

In 2018/19 more than half of the people who made a 101 call hung up because they got no response – a situation T/ACC Hodges called unacceptable.

In November 2023 it was 9.7 per cent, falling to 8.1 per cent in December and 4.8 per cent in January.

One area in which the figures have increased was the use of online forms to report an issue.

More than 72,000 were filed in the 12 months up to January, with another 4,812 filed since the New Year.