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Durham force weeding out nuisance hoax callers
HOAX callers are being given short shrift by a North-East police force, helping to curb the number of potentially time-wasting offences.
The new “robust approach” to hoaxers is believed to be saving Durham Police thousands of pounds a year.
It was put in place after staff from the force’s communications centre attended a problem-solving workshop, in 2010.
The outcome was the introduction of a hoax call ‘challenge policy’, based on similar initiatives used by other emergency services.
Since its introduction, in late 2010, 4,000 hoax calls have been handled using the new approach.
Should handlers suspect the caller is not passing on genuine information, they inform them the conversation is being recorded and, if it proves to be a hoax, they could be prosecuted.
Suspect calls from mobile numbers result in callers receiving a warning that they could be disconnected by their network for repeat offences.
Sergeant Andy Reeves, who helped to devise the policy, said deploying personnel to check each hoax call was calculated to cost £19 in fuel and officer time.
Sgt Reeves, a supervisor in the communications centre, added: “That may not sound much, but multiplied across any given year, it was adding up to a waste of resources which could have been applied elsewhere.
“Our staff make a professional assessment of each call they deal with, and if they have serious doubts they implement the challenge.
"By cutting 4,000 wasted deployments we have made an estimated £76,000 worth of savings.
“This has prevented officers making unnecessary journeys, allowed us to make better use of our resources and enabled staff in the communications centre to deal more effectively with genuine emergencies and other incidents."
The force deals with about 900 calls made on the non-emergency 101 number each day, with a further 230 received via 999.
These calls result in approximately 520 incidents requiring some form of response, with officers attending about 80 per cent of these.
The force is meeting all required performance standards in the field, including answering 90-per cent of calls within ten seconds.
Latest research suggests it is answering 95 per cent within the target time.
The force employs 42 call handlers with a maximum of 16 to 18 on duty during peak periods.