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101 reporting service FREE to use from April 1st

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

We are fortunate to live in an area of relatively low crime rates. But what should we do when things go wrong? When we have a particular concern? When we feel unsafe?

For questions relating to law and order, then clearly the Police are the first port of call. But beyond calling 999 for emergency assistance, how confident are you that your concerns will be acted upon? Are you daunted by reports of long waits on the non-emergency 101 service?

Such reports are not just hearsay – they have been noted for example in the last annual report of the Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel, acknowledged by the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner and others.

These concerns have been reflected also at Chiltern Community Forum, and the 15p fee for the service also came in for some strong criticism at earlier meetings.

There is good news on the second point – from 1st April, the 101 telephone service becomes FREE to use.

As for performance, I am sharing a personal experience – and it’s a good one! After a very unpleasant incident, I filed a report to the Police. Since no-one was in imminent danger, 101 was the right route.

A long wait on the telephone would have escalated my already fraught state. So I filed the report online, using the 101 service. Some triage-like questions were followed by a form. It was easy to complete, the questions were not overly complex, and I received a print-out of my report and an e-mail receipt, promising follow-up. I felt a little better already – sometimes it’s better to be a keyboard warrior! But would anything happen?

The next day I WAS contacted and visited by a PCSO. He explained that any such report is processed and then allocated to an appropriate officer. When he came on shift, the report was waiting for him.

Needing to contact the PCSO again, this time I HAD to use the phone! By opting to speak to a specific officer, I was put through. Importantly, this should be used only if you are aware of who the officer is who is dealing with your incident. For logging reports, you would simply be instructed to return to 101 or the online option. It’s an option that needs to be used responsibly.

There is a long-standing problem of misuse (and sometimes abuse) of the 999 reporting system. Around 80% of 999 calls to Thames Valley do not require an emergency response. This includes callers who have become tired of waiting on 101. If the 101 service is to achieve its goal of easing pressure on 999 call handlers, and enabling more effective response to genuine emergencies, all police forces are very aware of the need to build confidence in and understanding of 101.

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