Some callers waiting over an hour to get through to South Yorkshire Police

Superintendent Bob Chapman, head of communications at South Yorkshire Police
Superintendent Bob Chapman, head of communications at South Yorkshire Police
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Some callers are waiting over an hour to get through to South Yorkshire Police, new figures show, as non-emergency response times continue to rise.

The average waiting time for 101 calls to be answered now stands at over 90 seconds, with records showing one person waited on the line for an hour and 13 minutes.

Bosses at the force say the number of calls has rocketed in recent years, yet resources have remained the same, putting staff at its call centre under increasing pressure.

READ MORE: The staggering number of hoax calls dealt with by South Yorkshire Police

New technology is set to be rolled out this summer, which it is hoped will reduce the amount of time spent on bureaucracy, and a review is under way into how else efficiency can be improved.

The average time taken to answer 101 calls to South Yorkshire Police has risen steadily over the last year, from 28 seconds in January 2017 to 91 seconds in January this year, the latest month for which data is available.

The longest wait in January this year was just under 67 minutes, and in July last year one person waited for just under 73 minutes, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

READ MORE: South Yorkshire Police in bid to improve call handling system

The proportion of 101 calls abandoned remained fairly steady between January 2017 and January this year, at 4.8 per cent, and 52.2 per cent were answered within 30 seconds during that period.

Last August, the forces received nearly 58,000 calls to the 101 number and 22,700 to 999, the highest during the year to January 2018.

Superintendent Bob Chapman, head of communications at South Yorkshire Police, said: "Over the last few years the number of 101 calls has risen almost three fold and 999 calls have also risen significantly. However, we still have the same staffing levels as we had in 2011, when austerity struck.

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"Our performance in answering 101 calls is mirrored pretty much around the country. With the same resources and an increase in calls, we have to prioritise the 999 calls, which is what the public would expect."

Mr Chapman added that as well as upgrading its call-handling technology, the force was looking to work better with partners like the NHS to deal with calls more efficiently.

He said South Yorkshire Police receives more 101 calls per head of population than most other forces, with the largest slice of those related to anti-social behaviour.

"We're asking our staff to do more than they've ever done, and as the volume of calls increases that obviously puts extra pressure on them. But I'm pleased to say that on the whole my staff provide a professional service," he added.

"I don't want to discourage anyone from contacting the police. However, I would dissuade people from making hoax calls and calls which clearly don't require a police response, as that detracts from our ability to deliver a service to those making genuine calls."

The number of crimes reported online rose from 109 in January 2017 to 728 last November, the latest month for which that figure was available.

Zuleika Payne, chairwoman of the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, said: "Mindful of the issues within our call centre, South Yorkshire Police had an undertaking to carry out a review which is underway.

"We still have the same staffing levels. However, calls to both the 101 and 999 numbers have significantly increased. The findings speak for themselves."

AVERAGE TIME TAKEN TO ANSWER 101 CALLS TO SOUTH YORKSHIRE POLICE (longest wait in brackets)

January 2017: 28 seconds (28m34s)

February 2017: 47 seconds (33m47s)

March 2017: 57 seconds (31m51s)

April 2017: 49 seconds (29m48s)

May 2017: 62 seconds (41m51s)

June 2017: 80 seconds (1h5m39s)

July 2017: 101 seconds (1h12m36s)

August 2017: 54 seconds (49m15s)

September 2017: 72 seconds (53m49s)

October 2017: 89 seconds (48m04s)

November 2017: 80 seconds (33m38s)

December 2017: 69 seconds (1h0m07s)

January 2018: 91 seconds (1h06m46s)