A SENIOR police officer has criticised people wrongly calling 999 as it was revealed emergency calls are not being answered quickly enough.

Hampshire police Chief Superintendent Fiona Bitters said significant numbers of people were calling 999 when there was no emergency.

Only one police force in the UK, Avon and Somerset Police, is meeting a target to answer 90 per cent of 999 calls in under 10 seconds.

Hampshire call handlers answer an emergency call in, on average, around 12.2 seconds - with 72 per cent of all 999 calls answered in under 10 seconds.

A quarter of calls are answered between 10 and 60 seconds, while two per cent take longer than a minute to answer.

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Ms Bitters said: “Our highly trained and experienced teams answer emergency 999 calls as quickly as possible, and we regularly review our service.

"We do still get significant amounts of calls to 999 that are not an emergency, and every time this happens someone at risk has to wait longer.

“In the year up to April 2022, Hampshire Constabulary received more than a quarter of a million calls to 999 and that number is growing.

"The overwhelming majority of 999 calls are answered in under 10 seconds. With such high volumes of calls, it is crucial that 999 is only used when there is immediate threat to life, property, or where a crime is in progress.

“The public can help us by remembering to contact in other ways if it’s not an emergency.

"Options include reporting a crime or telling us about something on our website.

"These online reports come through to the same highly trained contact management staff who answer 999 and 101 calls but reporting online enables us to deal with emergencies first.”

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The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for contact management, Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd, said a lag in connecting calls can contribute to waits but that “this isn’t for a member of public to resolve”.

“We want the public to have access to the data as part of policing being open and transparent,” he added.

“This is the first time police forces and the public have been able to see the time it takes to answer 999 calls from the call being made by the public, it being connected to the police by BT and local providers, to it being answered by police call handlers.”

The Association for Police and Crime Commissioners local policing leads Alison Hernandez and Jeff Cuthbert said the data shows “the demand for policing and the volume of calls” across the country.

“Police and Crime Commissioners are committed to supporting excellence in policing and will use this data to continually drive forward improvements and hold the police to account on behalf of the public,” they added.

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