A move by the Home Office which means that calls to the police non-emergency 101 number are free of charge has been welcomed as ‘good news’ by a senior Police Service NI officer.
The single non-emergency number connects people with their local police service, or another police service in the UK. Since introduction in 2014 there was a 15p connection charge to access 101 but, from Wednesday (1st April), that charge has been scrapped and the calls are now free.
Chief Inspector Gerard Pollock from Police Service NI’s Contact Management Centre said:
“The 15p charge has been a barrier for some people in our communities, in particular those who are vulnerable.
“Unfortunately, on occasion this leads to inappropriate use of the emergency ‘999’ system because callers could not afford the charge. This move means that 101 will be free to access in the same way as 999 is, and I welcome that.
“We know this move will benefit thousands of people in Northern Ireland. In 2019 there were over half a million 101 calls to the Police Service NI costing over £75,000 in connection charges for callers – those charges have been completed removed.
“It’s really important we are accessible to our communities and, if people need to report non-emergency incidents, they can do so in a way that works for them.”
Chief Inspector Pollock said
“I would remind the public to use 101 to contact a specific officer or member of staff or department, make a general enquiry or report a crime that has already happened, or tell us about crime in your area. You can also report a non-emergency incidents online at https://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/
“You should always call 999 when someone’s life is in danger, if a crime is happening now, when someone is injured, when there has been serious damage to property or a serious road traffic collision has occurred.”
The Home Office has cautioned that while the vast majority of people will be able to use the service free of charge from now until 1st July, there is a chance that users of small mobile operators will be charged for using the 101 service. The Home Office is urging those providers to refund their customers.