Sussex Police will be improving its contact centre after it was highlighted by inspectors in an independent report.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS) has carried out a review of the force.
Inspectors overall rated Sussex Police as ‘Good’ however it found the centre, which answers calls from people reporting incidents, needed improvement.
Deputy Chief Constable Bernie O’Reilly said: “As a consequence of the HMICFRS’s inspection, improvements are already being made in our contact centre, which has also seen a steady increase in demand.
“Switchboard operators are integral to the correct routing of calls, determining those which are priority crime calls and those which are non-priority.
“At times of high call volumes waiting times for non-crime calls can lengthen, resulting in some callers abandoning. We realise waiting can be frustrating and that is why the force has recently launched a contact card with all the different ways the public can get in touch. This was developed to ensure the public get the right help they need from us and also know when contacting the police is not the right service to call.”
Inspectors also found Sussex Police was ‘good’ at keeping people safe and reducing crime.
Mr O’Reilly continued: “We welcome HMICFRS’s views that our plans for the future are ‘realistic and practical’, with the reassurance that these have been subject to external scrutiny and challenge.
“They have judged us as ‘good’ in understanding demand and planning for the future.
“At the time of the inspection of we were part-way through a transformational change programme which has changed how we provide local policing in the community.
“Our local policing model has now been fully implemented just this week. It sees teams working together to identify the best ways of solving problems to keep people safe and feeling safe. These changes address many of the concerns cited by HMICFRS and ensures that we have the right people in the right places to protect those most at risk of harm.
“However, as is being increasingly recognised nationally, these are challenging times for policing with both increasing and new demands being placed on our service at a time when we have fewer people to respond. That is why our new model is flexible so we can best use the resources we have at our disposal now and we will look to invest where needed in the future.
“We have had to make difficult decisions but we’re pleased with our new model which sees teams taking a smarter approach to the way they prevent, detect and tackle crime. To sustain this model in to the future we will work with Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne to ensure there are sufficient funds to help offset the 26.5m further savings that need to be found over the next three years.”
“It is by investing in our staff, targeting their efforts in to where they can make a difference, and collaborating with partners that we can prevent crime and resolve local issues right up to combating serious organised crime and threats of terrorism through regional and national support.”
This week Sussex Police has announced a new model for policing which has introduced Prevention Teams.
The force says the aim of the new teams is to reduce crime by preventing it from happening in the first place and focus on proactive problem solving activity.
Officers said in Brighton work by police and partners led to an ‘aggressive and violent beggar’ receiving a criminal behaviour order banning him from Brighton and Hove for two years and preventing him from begging anywhere nationwide.
In Burgess Hill, the council and some sporting clubs worked together to tackle anti-social behaviour, hosting a social event for teenagers in a park and inviting them to attend council meetings. Since then police said anti-social behaviour has reduced.
Officers are also joining forces with the council in Crawley to combat anti-social behaviour.
Mr O’Reilly added: “The force’s financial plan is to achieve its savings targets while investing for the future. The report highlights our commitment to be innovative and research new ideas, investing in technology and seeking ideas from the workforce, who have helped design the local policing model.
“Working together with partners we are striving to efficiently deliver an effective service in keeping the communities we serve safe, and feeling safe; identifying and protecting vulnerable people; and preventing and responding to harm.”
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne says: “As PCC, I use these independent reports as part of my scrutiny of the force so it is reassuring that this report recognises that Sussex Police works efficiently to keep people safe and reduce crime and overall has been given a ‘good’ rating.
“However part of the report has found that Sussex Police requires improvement in its use of resources to manage demand. Whilst I recognise that Sussex Police has seen an increase in demand and I know that officers are carrying high workloads across all departments, it is worth noting that this inspection took place six months ago - before the final changes to the force’s local policing model were completed.
“We need to give Sussex Police time to embed these changes following the introduction this month of the new Prevention Teams who will be working with partners and the public to identify the best ways to solve problems.
“It is my job to help Sussex Police explore and identify all opportunities for investment in order to manage future demand. That is why I have carried out a review of the amount of money Sussex Police holds in its reserves and released £15m to reduce the impact of reductions in police officer numbers.
“On Monday I will be launching a county-wide consultation asking members of the public if they would be prepared to pay more for policing in Sussex to sustain our service.”