Police bosses 'embarrassed' by service

POLICE governors admit they are embarrassed by the standards of customer care given to the people of Suffolk by the force.The confession came after Christine Laverock, who chairs the independent Suffolk Police Authority which holds the purse strings, was grilled by concerned residents, at a police forum meeting.

POLICE governors admit they are embarrassed by the standards of customer care given to the people of Suffolk by the force.

The confession came after Christine Laverock, who chairs the independent Suffolk Police Authority which holds the purse strings, was grilled by concerned residents, at a police forum meeting.

Responding to their queries, Mrs Laverock said: "We are quite unhappy with some of the responses people are getting when they are calling in at the moment. We are very aware that we have not got customer care and service right. It has got to the point where the police authority are just embarrassed about it."

Her words follow an incident in which police officers took two days to visit a crime scene where about 200 cigarettes were stolen from Victoria Wines, in Meredith Road, Ipswich. The theft happened just after midday on September 15. The crime was reported within minutes, but it was 48 hours before police attended.


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A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said a burglary was taking place in another area of Ipswich at the time, meaning officers were unable to attend. She added the cigarette theft had been logged as 'shoplifting' and so was classed as a lower priority.

At the forum in Hollesley on Wednesday night, a Woodbridge resident said when he reported an incident of serious vandalism, where the windows of a neighbour's home were smashed, he was told that a police officer would not be available until the next day.

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Mrs Laverock admitted the authority was also unhappy with the feedback that people were given once they reported crimes, and felt that liaisons between victims and the police should be improved.

She said: "We spent a long time discussing it at our last meeting and this is something that we are going to get right. It is a major priority as the number of calls grows every day."

Woodbridge sector commander, Inspector Ben Cook said that the increased number of calls was due to mobile phone technology and not a rise in crime. He said: "Whereas before you would just have one call from the people involved in an accident, you will now get calls from all the people who drive past."

He said that, on average, Suffolk police receive 250 urgent 999 calls a day and 1,300 non-urgent calls.

He said: "We are aware that the public are concerned, but we take every call very seriously and are currently in the process of training extra staff and have a team dedicated to finding ways in which we can improve.

"The Call First team is concentrating on receiving calls and call handling with a view to making recommendations for improvements to the service.

"Among the improvements being considered will be introducing a new queuing system which will automatically take your call, tell you where you are in the queue and give you the options of voicemail or a call back.

"The major problems we are facing is a significant increase in 999 calls as well as non-urgent calls which is partly because of the proliferation of mobile telephones – which result in enlarged numbers of people calling about a single incident."

He said 999 calls are up by 11pc this financial year an added: "This is a national problem facing all emergency services.

"In line with the Suffolk First campaign to make Suffolk the safest county in England and Wales by 2006 we have recruited six additional call takers who are currently being trained and will be in place by the end of November or the beginning of December."

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