The Western Australia Police are finding they are getting twice the call volume at their communications center as they did in 2004.
This is leading authorities to introduce a new system to reduce the wait time for people requiring immediate attention.
Some 1,101,681 calls were received at the center during last financial year – a 22-percent rise in the number of calls in just two years.
While it is good that residents are eager to call the police, it has rendered police officers unable to answer calls from the public in a timely manner.
“The sheer number of calls to the centre means WA Police is no longer meeting its grades of service and the delays are frustrating for callers and the call takers,” Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan said in a recent statement. “Significantly some 200,000 of the calls to 131 444 and the 000 emergency line last year were for general inquiries, many not pertaining to a police function, which prevents genuine people in need of a police response from getting through quickly.”
WA Police are soon introducing a two-option interactive voice response (IVR) technology at the Police Assistance Centre to prioritize calls.
Callers to 131 444 line will be asked to press “1” on their phone if they require immediate police assistance. Or they can press “2” for other issues.
“This filtering process will ensure that people requiring an immediate police response receive priority over those wishing to make a more general inquiry or report a matter not requiring immediate police attention,” O’Callaghan said. “We are not trying to deter people from calling police, but we need to ensure community safety is not compromised by delivering an optimum service to those most in need.”
In addition, the police have erected a panel to make sure that projected call growth from the public will be well-managed.
Also, Australia still provides emergency service by dialing 000. The line is for life-threatening situations, according to police spokeswoman Sue Short.
"Back in 2004 when we set up the police communications centre, specifically the police assistance centre, we were estimating that we would get about half-a-million calls for assistance every year," O’Callaghan told ABC News of Australia. "That's ramped up quite significantly and we're currently taking something like 1.1 million and that's expected to ramp up to 1.8 million by 2015.”
He estimates that about a quarter of a million calls are for information that does not warrant a police response. Examples are questions about drivers’ licenses, vehicles, etc.
The Community and Public Sector Union's Toni Walkington, however, says the two-option voice response is not a permanent solution. "The reality is the same number of calls are going to need attention and assistance, and there's going to be many people waiting for a very long time to get any assistance at all," Walkington told ABC. "Clearly the service is under resourced, so the government needs to lift the budget cuts and lift the staff freeze so police services and other departments can staff for need."
The kinds of issues 911 dispatchers need to handle vary widely. For example, in the United States employees at 911 call centers received additional training in the state of Oklahoma for the new open carry gun law, TMCnet reported.
Edited by Braden Becker