People in Hartlepool are ‘sick of waiting’ to speak to police officers after phoning in alleged crimes - leading to incidents being under-reported, according to councillors.
Councillors claim people are waiting “15 to 20 minutes” for calls to be answered on the Cleveland Police line, chief inspector Nigel Burnell was told when he attended the Hartlepool Council audit and governance committee to answer concerns over crime figures.
Councillors questioned whether crime was being under-reported and cited residents’ issues with the 101 phone reporting system - leading to them not getting recorded.
Police said nationally crime is under-reported and they are striving to provide the best service possible.
But Coun Brenda Loynes said: “People ring 101 and get sick of waiting. People are waiting 15 or 20 minutes. They could be doing other things.
“That is a reason why recorded crime is down.”
Coun Lesley Hamilton said: “101 I have to say is an absolute nightmare.
“I have to say at a lot of resident meetings people have said they are refusing to call 101 because they are on the phone for too long.
“Do police need to look at an alternative to the 101 service? It’s aiding the amount of unreported crimes in the community.
“Maybe because there is so many people phoning in there, are not enough people available to answer the phones.”
The committee was shown in its last meeting figures which showed a three per cent overall rise in crime from April to June compared to the same time last year.
However it was the ‘smallest increase in the Cleveland force area’ and showed sexual offences dropping 40%, robberies by 22% and criminal damage and arson attacks falling by 11%.
Officers warned the statistics are of crimes reported to them and said they are working hard to provide the best service to the community possible.
Ch Insp Burnell said: “You do have to be careful with statistics, they can give a skewed figure. Nationally crime is under-reported.
“Work is on going to improve the services we provide, there is insufficient information at the moment to say the cause and effect.
“The force is trying to improve our response and we are working to build confidence in the community.
“If people are not getting the service they want then we urge them to contact our complaints team.
“We get hundreds of calls, there will be some cases we don’t give the response we want.
“If we can address the cause that’s the biggest thing we can do here.”
He also said people can contact the Hartlepool Community Safety Team via email on email@example.com.
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service