Police failing to arrest rising 999 response times

POLICE response times for 999 emergency calls in Sussex have risen by three minutes in the last two years it has been revealed.

The statistics were obtained by the Bureau For Investigative Journalism through a Freedom of Information request to all forces across England & Wales.

In Sussex average response times to Grade One emergency calls increased from 10 minutes in 2010 to 13 minutes in 2012. Response times to Grade Two priority calls increased from 55 minutes in 2010, to 67 minutes in 2012.

Sussex was one of the highest response times for Grade One in the country.

Only Cumbria, Kent, Essex, Surrey and West Midlands Police had a higher response time out of the 26 forces who responded. Cumbria, one of the largest rural counties, had an average of 33.22. Surrey at 12.09, Kent at 11.58, West Mids at 13.13 and Essex at 11 minutes.

Some of the increase in time has been put down to cubacks in police man power and vehicles.

Sussex Police assistant chief constable Robin Merrett said: “Sussex Police acknowledges since 2010 there has been a decline in the numbers of emergency and priority calls that are responded to within 15 minutes. This period has seen a 10 per cent increase in the number of calls that needed a grade one emergency response. At the same time the force is delivering a challenging programme of modernisation and savings. We are aiming to put in place changes that will save money without the quality of services suffering. Many aspects of our service have been maintained and some have even improved. This is obviously not the case in respect of response calls and we will be looking at ways that we can improve our response to emergency and priority calls.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, said: “My reassurance to the public is that Sussex continues to be a low crime county and I don’t want criminals thinking we are open for business, because we are not. However, the decline in response times to emergency calls is clearly unacceptable. My role is to hold the chief constable to account and I will be working with him to address this issue. I will be asking him at our performance and accountability meeting next week how the Force intends to tackle this. Anyone interested will be able to view this and subsequent meetings online. I want to ensure that Sussex remains a safe place to live and that high standards within the Force are maintained.”

Sarah Owen, Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Hastings & Rye, said: “Our police officers work really hard but the cuts are making it difficult for them to achieve the results they are capable of.

“Every minute really does count when someone is being threatened and a serious crime is being committed.”