Top Borough Policeman apologises for phone chaos

Non-emergency call problem could take 18 months to resolve

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Hounslow Borough Commander Jeff Harris has issued an apology to the local public over the difficulty of reaching the police by phone. Residents have reported that non-emergency calls to the numbers given for police stations can be left unanswered for over 30 minutes.

He said he took personal responsibility for the matter and that he was 'on the case'. He pointed out that the problem had to be seen in the context of substantial improvements in nearly all other aspects of policing, and the quality of policing in the borough. Crime is currently down across the borough by almost 400 offences per month compared to less than 2 years ago.

He added, "I can make many excuses, and list mitigation for this poor service, but the fact remains that too many people are waiting for too long to get an answer on the telephone."

The police plan to introduce a completely new system of call answering, along with the rest of London, and they say this will substantially improve the service, but will take up to 18 months to implement. Chief Superintendent Harris is asking the Central Communications Team from Scotland Yard to look the matter and make recommendations for improvements that will impact in the short term. However, the problem for the police remains how to improve phone response whilst not removing officers from front line duties.

Police advice currently is to ring 999 if an immediate response is required, for instance if someone you believe to have committed a crime is still in the vicinity.

July 9, 2004