Callers air frustrations over lack of response to 101 calls

Police control room
Police control room

A police phone line has been criticised by a senior councillor after residents complained at lengthy waiting times to report a problem.

Coun Joan Atkinson says she has received calls from people frustrated by the lack of response when calling 101.

Coun Joan Atkinson

Coun Joan Atkinson

She says the issue was brought to her attention following concerns of antisocial behaviour in and around Grange Park in East Boldon.

However, those who tried to contact police via the 101 number were left waiting for their calls to be picked up.

Coun Atkinson said she has also tried on occasions only to be met with a lengthy wait and emails sent in a bid to highlight the concerns of residents have bounced back.

Her criticism of the phone line was raised during a recent community area forum meeting for West Shields, Cleadon, Whitburn and East Boldon.

I have been contacted a number of times by residents who have tried to call the 101 number and have been unable to get through.

Coun Joan Atkinson

An officer at the meeting suggested the use of the Contact Us link on the police website as an alternative way to log concerns.

Coun Atkinson said: “There has been continuing youth disorder around Grange Park in East Boldon.

“I have been contacted a number of times by residents who have tried to call the 101 number and have been unable to get through.

“I have personally tried, and I have personally tried emailing and emails have been bouncing back.

“When you say go on the website and use the Contact Us page, a lot of older people don’t have that technological skill and something like this would not be that easy for them.”

The 101 non-emergency number was introduced across Britain in 2011 and 2012 and was designed to replace local station number and reduce calls to the 999 emergency number.

South Tyneside Superintendent Steve Heatley said: “We recognise the impact antisocial behaviour has on our communities, in particular those who are more vulnerable, and work very closely with our partners at South Tyneside Council to take action against this.

“We do encourage people to report this to us and are sorry if people have experienced difficulties with the 101 service. The fact is demand for the 101 service has increased significantly and at peak times of demand we are not answering calls as quickly as we would like.

“We are working hard to address this ensuring we have more staff on duty at times of peak demand and are encouraging people who are able to do so to use the online reporting.

“Anti-social behaviour is an absolute priority for us in South Tyneside and there is a lot of work on-going between ourselves and our partner agencies right across the borough to address this.”