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Crime victims told to ring police call centre

July 15, 2006
If you click the link on the title, it should take you to a Daily Mail article about people visiting stations in the Thames Valley Police area. Visitors who wish to report a crime are directed to pick up a phone and get in touch with one of two call centres in TVP, as opposed to an officer at the station dealing with the report.

This system has upset a few people, who believe that they should be dealt with at the front desk. These are probably the same people who complain that there are no officers on the beat and it took three hours for an officer to call round to investigate the theft of a pint of milk off the doorstep.

At first glance, you think it would be quite reasonable to expect to see a police officer in a police station, or at least a member of police staff? Unfortunately, 99% of the population have mobile phones and a large proportion of them seem to use their phones exclusively to call the police to sort their lives out. This means that a huge number of people have to be employed to answer the phones. Whenever there is a collision on the motorway, you can expect at least 20 calls on the 999 system. All these need to be answered.

To compound matters, the government, in their infinite wisdom, have set all forces a target to answer all calls within a certain time limit. Due to the unhealthy obsession that chiefs seem to have with these targets, this means that they feel obliged to set up massive call centres to ensure that 90% of calls are answered within three microseconds of it being connected (there is a rumour that the government will change the target so that calls have to be answered before they are even made, thereby saving the caller the effort of dialling. Anyone with a qualification in telepathy should make a fortune, but you knew that already)

Although there is a target time in which to answer the call, there is no target concerning the quality of service that the caller receives. It’s all very well having a call answered quickly, but if you are then fobbed off within the next 20 seconds so the operator can answer another call, it doesn’t really satisfy people, does it?

Back to the subject. Because there are all these people in call centres, they have to justify their existence. It also means that there aren’t as many people in the front office to deal with visitors. TVP have come up with what they believe is the perfect solution. The beauty of it is that all those calls from the front office are internal calls, which are not subject of targets,so if it gets busy because a couple of eight-year olds have just walked down a road wearing hoodies, the call centre can ignore the calls from the front offices and make sure that the external calls are answered.

The next part of the problem is that when the calls are all answered, logged and promised a response, it falls to an ever-dwindling band of officers to deal with an ever-increasing demand. Calls to the police have increased exponentially over the last thirty years, but the numbers available to deal with them haven’t gone up by the same amount. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to work out the solution to this equation. As you all know, there are no mathematical geniuses in the government. The only things they can add up are their expenses claims – even those have a certain element of fiction about them.

The police are now trapped in a vicious circle. The only way to increase resources is to demonstrate that there is an operational need. This means that forces have to make sure they record each and every crime and incident that occurs, to show how much demand there is. By making it easier for people to call in or phone the police, the number of calls increases and people report stuff that they would ordinarily have sorted out themselves. This in turn leads to more calls of the “my neighbour has been giving me filthy looks” variety. Resources are allocated to domestic violence units, antisocial behaviour units and other little task forces, to sort out all these issues, leaving less officers on the front line. Because no-one can rely on seeing an officer on patrol who they can discuss their problems with, they end up making a call to the police. It goes on and on, but the fly in the ointment is that, regardless of how many targets the government introduce, how many initiatives they devise, how many amnesties they instigate, the one thing that they won’t do is have the courage to increase the number of officers by sufficient to make a significant difference.

Labour will make a big issue of the fact that numbers have gone up from around 128000 officers to about 140000 officers during their time in office. This works out to be around 280 officers per force. These extra officers aren’t all on duty at the same time, so it is obvious that this increase will have next to no effect on results. Give us another 60000 colleagues and we might start to make an impression on some of those long lists of unactioned jobs.

I think this makes up for not posting for a while, doesn’t it?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    July 16, 2006 02:28

    A problem, if not the problem, is that as the Force or Service (which ever form of PC you labour under) is becoming more like a military force, despite that some folks say para-military, but you can ignore them. The reason i say military is that it heading towards requiring 1000 persons to keep 1 member on the patch. And your actual working member is hamstrung by additional paperwork and what they may actually be able to do. If you will excuse the language there are more civilians and senior management and ancilliary services hanging around the officer on the street than there are dags round a sheeps bum. But most of those civilians and senior management drive desks. Those civilians and seniour management ought not to be included as line staff in working out figures. Now civilians have their place – they are the ones who make the phone calls on 999 or 000 or 911 or who are the witnesses who give conflicting statements or they mill – civilians are very accomplished at milling. Senior management and effective senior officers (the two are different species) require special programs that mandate going back on the streets (without rank) for short periods of time, say 6 months and in different constabularies. The ancilliary staff can follow a similar pathway say as CSO’s. The periods of renewal would serve several purposes.

    1. Teach them some humility
    2. Give them some actual street experience, or renew the memories with more up to date ones.
    3. Provide direct feedback to some of the hare-brained concepts, ideas, schemes, programmes etc etc that proliferate – the devil makes work for idle hands.
    4. Fill in whatever takes your fancy.
    5. No-one to be excluded.

    How’s that for starters?

  2. Anonymous permalink
    July 16, 2006 10:08

    Of those 280 per force how many are actually out on the streets.

    The Government want annual savings. This reduces the number of cops on the sreet. They will give a bit of extra cash to form a “unit” of some sort (ASBO’s, Hate Crime etc) or increase the size of a “unit” but if this isn’t in keeping with the force needs they won’t let us do what we want with the money so it’s either a “unit” or nothing. So cops are installed into offices.

    Those that are being recruited into the job are being badly let down by the system. All those experienced cops that would have shown them the ropes have jumped ship or moved behind said desks. The probationers are being trained by those barely out of their probation themselves and often outside of the shift system which they will have to get used to. They never have to go from job to job with a brush up their arses and opt out of the work if they have a backlog of paperwork to complete. They never do nightshifts and are not put into confrontational situations. They are then let loose on a shift they may never have worked with, certainly don’t know and all of a sudden have to face the oncoming tide of shite that is their new career.

    2 years later (or sometimes less) they make a beeline for the nearest desk job which the government have so thoughtfully provided ready to make their mark by providing the rest of us with a new system a check-boxes to fill in. Cue a promotion and … well you can see where I am going.

    In the meantime the Federation are a toothless noisebox and the Chiefs and Bosses of our once glorious service have “YES” tattoed into their eyelids just in case they forget which position the government wants them to take.

    As an aside, the “word verification” I have to provide to post this is “YBUTTMO” Don’t know what it means but it seems somehow fitting. It might make a good name for a blogger!

  3. Stan Still permalink
    July 16, 2006 11:02

    Don’t be shy you anonymous guys.

    Register with Blogger – you can use any name you like and you don’t have to have a blog.

    It makes it so much easier to respond to comments.

    As far as I know, YBUTTMO is still available to the highest bidder!

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