London Assembly member slams ‘shocking’ stats on police response times

Average police response time to calls of ‘significant’ importance more than double the target time in recent months, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Caroline Pidgeon
Caroline Pidgeon

The average time taken by the Met Police to arrive on the scene of incidents like burglaries and road traffic collisions has been slammed by a City Hall politician as “nowhere close” to fast enough.

Caroline Pidgeon, a Liberal Democrat on the London Assembly, said it was “shocking” that the average police response time to calls of ‘significant’ importance across the capital in recent months was more than double the target time of one hour.

Statistics sourced by Caroline via a written question to London mayor Sadiq Khan show that in all twelve of the Met’s basic command units spread around the capital, the average response time from December through to February to so-called ‘S-grade’ calls was two hours and two minutes.

‘S-grade’ calls, otherwise known as ‘low urgency’ calls, are where there is a “degree of importance or urgency associated with the initial police action, but an emergency response is not required”. Examples include road traffic collisions, hate crimes, anti-social behaviour and burglaries.

Although the London-wide average time to respond to such calls was not within the one hour target, 62.5% of calls in the winter period were still responded to within the target. The Met said they were working hard to prioritise the most urgent calls.

The slowest response times were found in the east unit, which covers the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering, and Redbridge. There, the average response time in December was four hours and 42 minutes.

In three other units – west (Ealing, Hillingdon, Hounslow), south-west (Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Wandsworth) and north-west (Barnet, Brent, Harrow) – the average response time for S-grade calls during the whole three-month period was over two hours.

In two units – the earlier-mentioned east unit and the north-east unit covering Newham and Waltham Forest – it was over three hours during that same period.

Caroline said the figures were “really quite shocking and many Londoners will find them deeply unsettling”.

She added: “[The data] shows us that not only are target times being missed, but in the vast majority of boroughs they are nowhere close to being hit.

“The fact that someone in East London who has experienced a burglary or hate crime may have to wait almost five hours for a response just isn’t acceptable.

“In 2018, Sadiq Khan conceded that there were ‘some specific response times problems related to the rollout of the new basic command units’, however here we are five years later and every single unit is [on average time taken] missing S-Grade target times, most of them by a country mile.

“It is quite clear that we need a return to proper community policing with more borough-based officers and response teams to help Londoners when they need them most.”

A Met Police spokeswoman said: “From 1st December 2022 to 28th February 2023 the Met received 915,842 calls. Londoners rightly expect us to be there for them when they need us and we recognise the importance of being able to respond to the most serious emergencies as effectively as possible.

“Our officers are regularly the first emergency service workers at the scene of a stabbing or a serious collision and they are trained to provide first aid, as well as to keep the public safe.

“We know this is an important area for us and where we have identified challenges in some policing areas, we have worked hard to ensure we are doing all we can to prioritise the most urgent calls for service.”

She added: “The commissioner has spoken publicly about the demands and pressures created on policing from cut backs in other emergency and local services and the impact these have on our key mission of tackling crime and keeping the people of London safe. He will continue to work with partners and the government to find long-term solutions to these issues, as well as tackling the root causes of much of this demand by creating the strongest ever neighbourhoods policing under our turnaround plan.”

The mayor’s office said Khan was focused on working with the Met to improve the situation.

A spokesman for the mayor said: “Nothing is more important to the mayor than keeping Londoners safe and his record funding of the police is working to put more officers on our streets, restoring neighbourhood policing and improving the care and support Londoners receive when they contact police in an emergency. This is despite huge cuts from central government.

“The vast majority of emergency calls to police in London are responded to within national target times, but more needs to be done and the mayor is committed to working with [Met commissioner] Sir Mark Rowley to ensure police can be there for Londoners quickly when they need them most.”

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