THE number of emergency 999 calls made to North Yorkshire Police in May increased by 17.5 per cent on the previous month.

Figures just released by the police show that 7,409 calls were made to the force control room last month, with staff answering 61 calls in just 30 minutes during one peak time.

The figures also show the number of 999 calls made increased by 17.5 per cent on April - from 6,307 to 7,409 - and by 12 per cent increase on the same time last year, when 6,625 calls were made.

Police say despite the high level of calls made to the force control room, they were answered in an average of eight seconds.

In addition to the emergency calls, 20,469 101 non-emergency calls were also received last month, with callers experiencing an average waiting time of one minute 55 seconds.

Non emergency calls also increased last month, by 15 per cent, from 17,793 in April.

Between May 2017 and May 2018, the number of 101 calls handled by the force control room increased by almost 10,000.

Chief Inspector, Charlotte Bloxham, of the force control room, said there had been a huge increase of calls since last summer.

“Last year, all police forces across the UK saw a huge leap in call figures. Here at North Yorkshire Police, we saw call 999 volumes increase from 4,911 calls in January 2017 to a peak of 8,551 in August 2017."

She said changes had been made to ensure calls were answered as soon as possible.

“Recruiting more call handlers, improving our auto-switchboard and voice recognition software and introducing an operator and call back service for 101 calls has also paid dividends. Average waiting times for 101 calls have been between one to two minutes for some time now," she said.

There has been a recent £3 million investment in the force control room by the police and crime commissioner and a recruitment drive is underway, with a newly built call centre to be unveiled at Fulford Road in York.

Improved training and tutoring is being brought in, state of the art IT equipment is to be installed and a dedicated 'crime and occurrence management unit' is being established, to take over the responsibility for crime recording.

Jane Larkin, control room manager, said call handlers worked incredibly hard in pressurised situations.

“We are dedicated to ensuring that all calls to police are answered swiftly and dealt with efficiently. With the changes made in the last year and more improvements to come, we are confident we have all the resources in place to meet the increasing demand head-on.

“However, over the first three months of 2018 our call taking times for 999 calls averaged 8.3 seconds and the average waiting time for 101 calls was 1 min 28 seconds.

“We’re here to help the public of North Yorkshire when they need us the most. We fully recognise that responsibility and we are incredibly proud of the level of service we deliver.”

She added that the public did have a part to play and that people should only call 999 in an emergency.

“Unfortunately we do get instances where people call us to ask for a lift because they have missed their train, or report the fact that their local take away has closed early. These calls could be preventing a genuine emergency from getting through to us. So please – help us to help you and only dial 999 in an emergency," she said.