Public shown how Sussex Police tackle 70,000 calls a month

Chief Superintendent Jane Derrick in the control room
Chief Superintendent Jane Derrick in the control room

The head of Sussex Police’s 999 call centre says her staff deal with 70,000 calls every month – and that number is rising.

Chief Superintendent Jane Derrick said she is aware a lot of people say ‘well I rang 101 and I waited forever’.

But she added: “If it is an emergency they will put it through as an emergency.

“We will always put the most vulnerable who need us the most through.”

On Sunday Sussex Police opened the doors of its Force Contact, Command and Control Department (FCCCD) at its Lewes HQ to members of the public.

More than 230 guests got to see the journey of a 999 call from first contact through to police arriving at the scene under blue lights.

Members of the public got an insight into what happens at Sussex Police HQ in Lewes. Picture: Sussex Police

Members of the public got an insight into what happens at Sussex Police HQ in Lewes. Picture: Sussex Police

As well as hearing what goes on, visitors got to try their hand at some simulated 101 scenarios.

They were tasked with taking down the details and acting as a controller assigning police officers appropriately.

Guests also got an insight into CCTV monitoring and learned about the best ways to contact police.

Ch Sup Derrick added: “Every day in March this year we received more than 1,150 calls to 101 and more than 580 emergency calls to 999 every day.

We will always put the most vulnerable who need us the most through.

Chief Superintendent Jane Derrick

“The demand is increasing with on average about two contacts every minute 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

“This weekend we saw an average of 34 emergency 999 calls an hour and more than 60 calls at hour at its peak.

“That is why it was so important to open our doors and show them how vital our work is, how hard the contact handlers and controllers work and to show them all the different ways they can contact us, not just via the phone.

“On average it takes a caller four minutes between speaking to someone on the switchboard and speaking to a contact handler on 101.

Contact handlers Skye Mansbridge (left) and Chelsea Huggett

Contact handlers Skye Mansbridge (left) and Chelsea Huggett

“If it is an emergency it will immediately go to our 999 call takers, but if it isn’t you might have to wait.

“Our visitors learnt how important improving public contact is to us and the recent council tax increase will help improve ways for the public to contact us about non-emergency matters, in ways that are convenient to them. An email or online form is treated exactly the same as a 101 call and triaged the same way.

“We get it right thousands of times and we are striving to get better.”

Alongside the FCCCD, the Investigations and Resolution Centre works to provide an opportunity to resolve low risk and non-critical incidents after members of the public make contact.

The centre is made up of experienced police officers and call handlers who support and take demand from the contact handlers and division and look to solve the crime for victims.

Justin Norman, who works as a supervisor in the Investigations and Resolution Centre, said: “Last year we took nearly 28,000 reports and reduced 42,000 deployments on division.

“We can deal with things slower time here allowing the officers to be where they are needed rather than being office bound or collecting CCTV. We can support investigations by producing evidence for an arrest.

“If someone needs to be arrested, they will be, investigations come here to be progressed, not just closed.”

Talking about the success of the day, Ch Sup Derrick said: “The feedback we’ve had from the open day has been great and very encouraging.

“The team worked hard to show the public exactly what they do and they left with a better understanding about how we assess each contact, be that via email or phone call, to make sure we respond appropriately.”

Click here to find out about different ways to contact police.