KENT Police have recorded their slowest response times in years under the weight of unprecedented calls for help to the 999 and 101 numbers.
Last year the force, that has faced budget cuts, received more than 300,000 calls to 999 and took an average five minutes longer to arrive at the scene of any incident than in 2013-14, a Freedom of Information request has shown.
Police say 44 per cent of calls do not classify as an emergency and are now encouraging people to report crime online with nearly one-in-five calls to the 101 non-emergency number not being answered.
Matthew Scott, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, said yesterday (Tuesday) the figures are “disappointing but unsurprising.”
He added: “We have an issue with lower resources, we have 500 fewer officers than in 2010. People are phoning the police when it is inappropriate.
“I would like to see if I can again increase the budget.”
He said the recently introduced online service for reporting crime will be “complimentary,” rather than a replacement of the phone lines and said there are no plans for police stations to close.
From April to August this year it took Kent Police an average 16.29 minutes for an immediate priority call to be attended between 6am and 11pm, compared to an average of 11.07 minutes in 2013-14.
Between 11pm and 6am, Kent residents would have waited ten minutes four years ago, but now wait an average of 13.07 minutes.
A force spokesman said: “Kent Police has managed an unprecedented demand under significant pressures.
“Handlers prioritise calls where there is the greatest risk of threat or harm.”
The police received 306,714 calls to 999 in the 2016-17 tax year, compared to 259,377 in 2013-14.
Since 2010 nationally the police have seen a real-terms budget cut of 18 percent with a decline of nearly 19,000 officers, according to Home Office data.