Computer glitch slowed down average pick-up time for 101 calls almost seven minutes due to

Suffolk police's control room, based at the headquarters in Martlesham. Picture: LAUREN DE BOISE

Suffolk police's control room, based at the headquarters in Martlesham. Picture: LAUREN DE BOISE - Credit: Archant

A computer glitch caused a dramatic slide in the average time police took to answer non-emergency calls.

Average 101 call waiting times plummeted to almost seven minutes due to the problem in Suffolk police’s control room last October.

It had the knock-on effect of taking the average time to answer 101 calls to six minutes and 40 seconds during November.

The problem brought the annual average down to four minutes and eight seconds for 2017 – but calls are now being picked up within 14 seconds, according to latest performance figures.

Meanwhile, the constabulary maintained its high performance for answering 999 calls within target times (90.9% inside 10 seconds).

The good performance was upheld despite an increase in demand.

The Police and Crime Commissioner’s performance and accountability panel heard that technical issues affected the infrastructure that displays numbers of waiting calls last October.

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It meant supervisors could not dynamically move staff to meet incoming demand.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Kearton said the issue led to more staff answering 999 calls and fewer staff answering 101 calls.

Non-emergency calls were answered, on average, in 400 seconds during November, 230 seconds in December and 330 seconds in January.

The issue has since been resolved and a new telephony system is due to be launched at the beginning of May, to provide a better service to callers and reduce waiting times.

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Megicks said the testing regime was the most thorough he had ever seen, and that users were currently making sure the new system could handle required tasks in real-world scenarios.

The 101 system is designed for reporting crime and other concerns that do not require an emergency response.

Each call costs 15p – regardless of the time of day or duration.

Individual forces previously used local phone numbers, before the 101 number was rolled out across the country between 2011 and 2012.

The 101 number replaced the standard 01473 613500 switchboard number for Suffolk police headquarters in October 2011.