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Late-night drinking leads to rise in calls to police.

Byline: BY DEBORAH JAMES Daily Post Staff

ROUND-the-clock drinking has caused dramatic increases in late night crimes being reported to Merseyside Police, it emerged yesterday.

The number of calls going into the force's emergency call centres rocketed by 5.7%, 15% and 33% on three consecutive Friday evenings in January.

It meant the force missed the national target of answering 90% of all calls in 10 seconds for the first time in more than a year.

Officers are also tracking a new trend of peak periods around 9pm, 11pm and 5am, just three months after 24-hour alcohol sales became legal.

On the worst evening so far operators took 200 calls around 5am, compared to the average 50 expected calls, on January 27.

In the same night there were 340 calls around 9pm compared to an average 230 based on 2005 figures, and 270 calls around 11pm compared to the expected 165 expected.

Last night Chief Superintendent Colin Matthews, in charge of response times, put the increase in calls after midnight down to extended drinking hours.

He said: "We are seeing a steady rise in the number of calls between around 3am, 4am and 5am, where we used to see a drop off, and that's down to the licensing laws.

"The calls we are getting in are across the spectrum and across the force area, but mostly the increase is in calls about anti-social behaviour and crime, and a lot of it is in the city centre.

"It's difficult to say if they are directly caused by alcohol, but the point is that people are just out and about that little bit longer, and that's when things happen to them."

Now the force is looking at a package of measures to cope with demand including changing shift patterns so there are more call handlers around at busy times.

Chief Supt Matthews said the force is also preparing to merge its two call centres at Mather Avenue and Canning Place, in a bid to make the service more efficient, in the next 12 months.

The 110 staff, who handle around two million calls a year, merged from five call centres to two, in July 2005.

This January they took 73,955 emergency and non-emergency calls from the public, compared to 67,664 last December.

Initial figures yesterday showed the force was back on track to have answered 96% of calls within 10 seconds in February.

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Merseyside Police's call handlers are seeing an increase in calls Picture: MARTIN BIRCHALL' Chief Supt Colin Mathews
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 2, 2006
Words:422
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