Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 13:26 UK

Police expand 101 non-urgent line

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The 101 service has been piloted in Cardiff since 2006

A non-emergency police phone line aimed at easing the pressure on 999 calls is to be rolled out across Wales.

The 101 service has been trialled in Cardiff since 2006, where it responds to low-level incidents such as noise disruption and nuisance behaviour.

Now, the four Welsh police forces are to run the 101 Cymru service.

It is hoped the alternative number will free up the 999 service to deal with more serious incidents but critics say they would prefer more beat officers.

The 101 service is a confidential 24-hour number giving direct access to advice, information and action for community safety matters, including certain non-emergency crime, policing and anti-social behaviour.

The Cardiff number has been run as a joint initiative between the police and councils, and has also dealt with complaints such as fly-tipping, graffiti and vandalism.

A Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) spokesperson said that while the all-Wales 101 number would be run by the four police authorities and forces, they will be "exploring opportunities for future partnership working with local authorities".

Why spend all that money on that when you could put more police on the beat?
June Johnson, chair of a residents association

When the 101 service was launched in Cardiff, police figures showed only 20% of 999 calls made to South Wales police were classed as emergencies.

The force said that by relieving pressure on the 999 system, it was able to redeploy 25 extra officers to neighbourhood policing in the capital.

However, June Johnson, chair of Bayside Tenants and Residents Association in Splott, Cardiff, said she believed the money spent on 101 could be better used elsewhere.

"I'm not a supporter of 101 and quite a few people on Bayside are not supporters of 101, talking about it in the community. Why spend all that money on that when you could put more police on the beat?" she said.

"I have used 101, mainly to log complaints about anti-social behaviour, which we are told to do.

"But personally, I would prefer to get through to a police station or a police officer directly who knows the area.

"When you ring 101 they classify your emergency into different categories, which can then be dealt with in an hour or days.

"But what might not be urgent to them, can be to someone who is suffering from anti-social behaviour.

"Some people I know haven't had a response at all and other people have had a response to a less urgent matter within an hour. It's madness."

Funding withdrawn

The Home Office initially piloted the 101 scheme in five areas in the UK, including Cardiff.

However, it withdrew funding in 2008 following criticism that the number had not cut-down calls to 999.

The service was saved after local councils and police forces stepped in to run it.

The Home Office said it is not funding the all-Wales number and said the running costs were likely to come from each force's budget.

We asked you to tell us your experiences of the 101 service. Here are a selection of your comments.

So by ringing 101 you can log a call to the police any time of the day or night..... this must be an improvement. The article state that this means fewer calls to 999 allowing officers to deal with "real" emergencies and more officers out on patrol. So the community are in a win win situation, the police save money, deploy more officers. Whilst acknowledging that not everyone has access to a phone or computer, the comment about reporting to a local station in days of computers and mobile phone technology is strange or should we go back to blowing a whistle for the police and running down the street shouting stop thief
John, Cardiff

Great to hear that it's being rolled out across Wales. It saves so much time for the 999 teams and it makes it easier for people to report things that they may have thought too trivial for 999. Good stuff.
Richard Martin, Pontypridd, Wales

I reported drug dealing with youths in my old street to 999 who redirected me to the 101 service. I have given the helpful and well trained staff countless pieces of information and nothing has ever come of it so im less than convinced.
Kieran, Rhondda

Any number that frees up the 999 service is a good idea. 999 should only be used in an emergency, thats what its there for, its one and only purpose.

The 101 service, as with other non emergency numbers does relieve the tension from 999 and yes calls are categorized and prioritised but thats how it must be. I'd rather a constable attend a genuinely urgent case than a minor case of Anti social behaviour. ASB might be a nuisance and distressing to some but that constable may well be needed to deal with lets say a road accident where lives are at stake.

I think June is misguided and needs to visit a 101 centre to see what value it truly holds. I speak from personal experience.
George, Swansea

I used 101 to report an 'out of place' vehicle, which turned out to be stolen. It took 9 hours for the report to be passed on and 15 hours before I had any response, during which the vehicle was moved elsewhere. That was a waste of time & resources.

On another occasion, an elderly neighbour saw a group of youths breaking into my vehicle, but didn't telephone the police because "the number had changed" and didn't know what it was.

Too many choices can lead to confusion. A trained operator can direct calls appropriately and efficiently.
John, Cardiff

I have used the 101 service several times and found the staff to be very efficient and helpful. When I needed a police officer they were with me within minutes, I actually found the 101 staff easier to deal with than the 999 team.
Paula Gilbert, Cardiff

I have used this number several times to report non-emergency problems that can be dealt with by local officers. Prior to this I had to call my local station, which meant whilst a police officer was taking my call they were not out on the beat. This system is much better.
steve, cardiff

I used the 101 number very recently when someone broke into my car and stole my ipod whilst I was parked in the street outside a mates house. I was impressed with the service, it was all very professional and I have no complaints about it, but if it wasn't for my friend knowing it still existed I wouldn't have had a clue, I thought it'd been stopped ages ago, with better advertising that the service still exists, perhaps they'd get more calls...

I'm preparing to take flak for these comments from those who think that the money could be better spent elsewhere, and yes, perhaps it could, but as the decision has been made to continue this service, we might as well make the most of it and advertise that it is available for use, and get the maximum potential from the expenditure.
Dan, Cardiff, UK

I have used the 101 service to report a non emergency issue which was fixed within hours. Its a great idea and it saves clogging up the 999 service with non emergency calls.

Mrs Johnson appears to misunderstand the point of the non emergency service given she states that they 'classify you emergency' If it is an emergency 101 is not the number to call 999 is. Chris, Cardiff

I have used this number on several occasions and have found it to be really well run. I had a neighbour who blocked my car in with 2 off his vehicles because he couldn't get to park outside his house. i phoned 101 and got some really good advice. It is illegal and an arrestable offence to block or hinder another car which is parked on the Queen's highway. An officer came out and had a word with the neighbour, as i didn't want him arrested. This was not a 999 call.
Alan, cardiff

I think it's useful to have an alternative number to 999 for issues which aren't so urgent, but it's still not going to improve police response times. From an experience from calling 101, I wasn't very satisfied, it seemed like I was just being fobbed off. As it turned out the police finally turned up and the youths causing havoc for over 3 hours were arrested.
Rich, Barry

One number for non-emergency incidents is better than rooting around in the telephone directory for your local police station.
Richard, Neath

I have been unfortunate enough to have used the non emergency 101 number twice over the last six months and I have found the people who answer the call poorly trained and nothing ever comes of your call…A waste of money for a not fit for purpose service.I recommend people stick to the 999 service at least you may have a chance of a Constable attending. But as South Wales Police operate a first come first served service and are somewhat reluctant to police Ogmore by Sea….it is probable best to book an officer a week in advance
Simon, Ogmore by Sea

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