A police phone line in South Tyneside has been hit with criticism by councillors who claim the service has been hit by lengthy delays.
The issue was raised by Cleadon and East Boldon Coun David Townsley during a meeting of the West Shields, Cleadon and East Boldon Community Area Forum, who said he had twice been left waiting for up to 15 minutes.
Police say the phone lines are often being clogged up by people trying to report non-police issues - with complaints about parking tickets, fly-tipping and faulty street lamps among the calls handlers are receiving.
They say they have now invested in a number of alternative ways for people to contact the police and that the average waiting time has reduced from two minutes 30 seconds in July to 35 seconds in January.
It is the not the first time the police phone line has been criticised by councillors.
In November, Coun Joan Atkinson raised concerns over lengthy waiting times to report a problem.
We get calls about parking tickets, fly tipping, faulty street lamps and abandoned vehicles to name but a few and these are not matters for police and create a lot of unnecessary demand.Chf Supt Felton
Coun Townlsey said: “I have needed to use that number this past month. On two of those occasions I was in a queue for 15 minutes.
“When policing relies on intelligence, I do question how much of that intelligence the police are missing through the problems with the 101 services.
“This 101 number is simply not working.”
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.
Northumbria Police head of communications, Chief Superintendent David Felton, said: “We are working hard to reduce demand on our 101 service and the public can help us by thinking about whether the police are the appropriate organisation to call.
“More than a third of the calls we receive to the 101 number are for non-police matters and our contact handlers end up acting as a switchboard for other agencies. We get calls about parking tickets, fly tipping, faulty street lamps and abandoned vehicles and these are not matters for police and create a lot of unnecessary demand.
“We are educating the public about when to call police and the contact pages on our website have guidance about who the best organisation is to call.
“If the public take this advice on board then our call handlers will be freed up to prioritise those calls and deliver the best possible service to the people we serve.”
If a life is in danger, or if a crime is in progress, then always call 999. If it is a non-emergency then visit our contact pages at www.northumbria.pnn.police.uk/contact