Belfast Telegraph

Half hour wait for PSNI to turn up for emergencies

More than 30 minutes' response time to one in 15 calls 'unacceptable', says Policing Board member

By Adrian Rutherford

The PSNI is arriving late to thousands of emergency calls, with one in 15 taking longer than half an hour to respond to.

In the past year, there were more than 1,300 cases where police did not show for 30 minutes.

They were among 4,500 emergency incidents across the province in which officers failed to attend in the first 15 minutes.

The figures, obtained by the Belfast Telegraph, were last night described as "alarming".

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Policing Board member Daniel McCrossan said: "The delay in the PSNI answering emergency calls is absolutely unacceptable.

"It only serves to underpin the lack of investment in policing and how budget cuts are impacting on the service the public expects."

Mr McCrossan said he would raise the matter at the next Policing Board meeting.

Details of response times were obtained after a Freedom of Information request. They show:

- The PSNI received 19,512 calls that were classed as emergencies in the 12 months to April this year;

- At least 1,347 of these - one in 15 - took longer than 30 minutes for officers to attend;

- Some 4,563 - almost a quarter - took more than 15 minutes;

- A further 2,369 calls had no arrival time at all specified - meaning the problem may be even worse than feared.

The PSNI pointed out that officers attended 89% of emergency calls within 25 minutes, where response times were available.

"Moreover, the majority of the calls, with arrival data available, have police in attendance in under 10 minutes (53%)," a spokesman added.

Emergency calls are classed as those assessed as requiring an emergency response outside the 999 system, including from alarms and the 101 non-emergency number.

In terms of 999 calls, 596 took longer than 30 minutes for police to attend. The PSNI pointed out that 92% of 999 calls received a response within 25 minutes.

However, Mr McCrossan, an SDLP MLA for West Tyrone, criticised the times.

He also claimed delays would impact on the PSNI's ability to investigate crime.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that when people are in an emergency, in many cases the PSNI is taking half an hour or more to answer," he said.

"These are the most serious of cases - cases that may really be life or death.

"Also, important information involving criminal acts may not be acted upon quickly enough, which could be leaving many members of the public unprotected with a reduced chance of apprehending criminals."

Mr McCrossan said he would seek answers from Chief Constable George Hamilton and Justice Minister Claire Sugden.

"I will be raising PSNI response times at the next board meeting with the Chief Constable, while I will also be making representations to the Justice Minister," the MLA explained.

"I will also be requesting a further breakdown of figures because I'd expect rural areas, such as my own, will be suffering more from these delays."

Speaking to this newspaper, Chief Inspector Billy McIlwaine urged people to look beyond simple statistics.

"I'm always very reluctant, even in my day job, to look at a bank of figures and say that tells me a story, because it only tells me part of the story," he said.

"If you even think that in the likes of Belfast or Londonderry at certain times of the day, if an emergency call comes in, we're just like everyone else - we have also got to carve our way through traffic.

"We've got blue lights and sirens and stuff, but that still doesn't mean you can get there straight away."

Mr McIlwaine added some less serious emergency calls slipped down the priority list.

"You can't predict it, there will be times when something has happened or it's just particularly busy," he insisted.

"We then have to start prioritising calls, and that will inevitably build in a delay to some of the less serious calls."

Belfast Telegraph


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