Thousands of calls to the new non-emergency police number have gone unanswered in the four months since its launch, new figures have revealed.
People hung up or were cut off before their 101 call was answered on more than 15,000 occasions, a Freedom of Information request has found. The new number has also failed to take the strain off the 999 service, despite being launched as an alternative way of reporting non-urgent crimes.
But Police Scotland said an increasing number of people were using the service and national targets to answer calls inside 40 seconds were being met. “Deserted” calls account for around 5 per cent of the 288,812 made since the Police Scotland hotline opened in February. This compares with a 4 per cent rate in England and Wales, where 101 has been running since January last year.
Emergency calls in Scotland fell by an average of just 1,358 a month, compared with the four months before the 101 line went live, the Tories said.
John Lamont, Tory chief whip, said: “One of the main aims of the new 101 number was to reduce pressure on 999, but calls to it have barely fallen.
“These figures also show that too many callers are not getting through, which might make them less likely to use the non-emergency number in future.
“With almost 6,000 calls going unanswered in May alone, clearly the system is suffering more than teething problems.
“The Scottish Government was well aware the introduction of a non-emergency number risked confusion without proper publicity campaigns, but again failed to heed warnings.”
The public had been advised to use the 101 number to report crimes such as car theft and damage to property, or give information about suspected drug use or dealing.
Police said 999 should still be used for genuine emergencies, where a crime is in progress, a life in danger or a suspect nearby.
Police Scotland said they received 436,053 calls to the new 101 service since it was launched.
Assistant Chief Constable Mike McCormick said: “We have had a number of abandoned calls. These are instances where a caller has put the phone down before their call is connected to the service centre. Across the country, we consistently meet our targets to answer 999 in ten seconds and 101 calls within 40 seconds.”
He added that last week alone 101 accounted for 47 per cent of all non-emergency calls made to Police Scotland and this percentage continued to increase.
Mr McCormick added: “There have been no teething problems associated with the system.”
In England and Wales, people hung up or were disconnected before a reply 496,000 times between January and October 2012 – 4 per cent of calls.
It has prompted concerns from the Police Federation that crimes are going unrecorded – casting doubt on official claims of falling crime rates.