POLICE are getting slower in answering non-emergency calls in the West Midlands, figures have shown.

Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has blamed falling budgets and increased demand for the figures – but also pointing to the force’s improved response times to emergency calls.

Papers presented to the Strategic Policing and Crime Board showed that, between December 2018 and March 2019, the number of 101 calls answered within 30 seconds dropped from just below 70 per cent to around 45 per cent.

The drop in response times coincides with a drop in the number of people using the 101 service, with a huge rise in recent months in people reporting crimes online.

Over the same period, the percentage of emergency 999 calls answers within 10 seconds stayed relatively steady between 85 per cent and 89 percent.

Speaking during the meeting, Mr Jamieson lamented the fact that response times for 101 calls had fallen.

However he was also quick to defend the figures, emphasising the fact that slashed budgets had meant the police have had to focus more resources on emergency provision.

“I am pleased that despite a massive increase in 999 calls, 89 per cent of emergency calls are answered within 10 seconds,” he said.

“Although due to rising demand and falling budgets, this has meant that the time taken to respond to non-emergency 101 calls has increased as a result of the force having to prioritise those who are potentially in immediate danger.

“I am pleased that since we introduced online reporting and live chat, thousands of people are now choosing to contact West Midlands Police online.”

The volume of total crime reported through online and digital channels has seen a month on month increase in recent times, with it now accounting for approximately 13 per cent of all crime reported to West Midlands Police.

And Chief Constable Dave Thompson, who presented the paper at the meeting, said that he was encouraged by the spike in demand for online reporting.

“I think this is the exciting part that’s emerged from this paper,” he said.

“So of course what we have done during this period is spread out the offer a little bit more now. So we’re offering live chat, and we’re offering online reporting into that space.

“And I think what the paper shows is an incredible uptake on that. An incredible uptake from the public not just because it is a prompt response, but it’s meeting their needs much more.

“It is generating more demand for us, but it’s good demand. It’s people who, through disability, or confidence, or fear of contacting or wanting to speak to the police, are more confident of contacting us online. And so what we are seeing I think is an incredible level of channel shift now.

“So 101 calls are falling, but this is where I differ from the report, I don’t think that’s because people are frustrated with the service. Actually what it’s showing is more of a shift. That people are generally moving toward online reporting in the West Midlands, I think on a level that we don’t see in other forces, and I think we’ve got more ambition to do that.”