Writing for the OnLondon website, Caroline explains the statistics around deterioriating response times to 999 calls - as well as the way the Mayor has used the statistics to obscure the worrying underlying problems.
To phone the police, where the situation might even involve the risk of life and for the police to take over 22 minutes to turn up is simply unacceptable. That is the reality facing some Londoners. Yet when I have raised these statistics with London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, their reaction has been largely defensive.
The Commissioner, for example, claims that more staff are now being recruited and that this should lead to improvements in call handling. The hot summer and the World Cup also created “moments of huge demand” she claims, yet this explanation hardly explains such poor response times in September.
However, it is the approach of the Mayor that I find most troubling.
However, instead of accepting in full how widespread and serious the problem is, he prefers to rebut any criticism of long delays in response time by instead quoting the percentage of calls answered within any targets. The problem with a percentage figure is it conveniently hides the huge range of response times, which tells a worse story. Quoting the percentage number of calls that are answered within a target time also fails to address the fact that there is a big difference between response times that just miss a target, and those that miss it by a mile.
Pressures on the Met are immense. Its workforce is overstretched and its budget needs to be increased. We are witnessing a rise in crime and especially violent crime in London. However, if the Met and Mayor are to turn things around, they should start by being honest about the poor experience too many Londoners face when they first engage with the police. Trying to put a favourable spin on the Met’s current record in responding to 999 calls is not helping anyone.