Crime does pay - 10p per call...
The government has today taken the wraps off a 'single non-emergency number' (SNEN) for concerned citizens to report petty crime or nuisance behaviour.
The 101 number will go live in some areas of the country this summer and is expected to roll out across the UK during 2008.
People will be asked to call 101 instead of 999 to report non-serious crimes including littering, noisy neighbours, vandalism, graffiti, anti-social behaviour and abandoned cars. According to the government, 10 million calls are made to the 999 emergency services number every year, of which 70 per cent are not classed as serious crime.
According to Home Office minister Hazel Blears, the 101 number is intended to "complement rather than duplicate" the emergency services number. Callers ringing the 101 number to register a complaint will speak to a SNEN operator who will then either advise them on how to deal with the problem or route them to the appropriate authority or the emergency services.
Callers will be given a reference number for their complaint and will be informed of its progress through the system. They will also subsequently be provided with details of their local authority's performance in dealing with 101 calls.
The Home Office said it expects call volumes to local authorities and local police forces to rise by 25 per cent as callers switch from using 999 to 101. The new number won't, however, help cut the amount of mobile calls accidentally placed to the emergency services when users fail to lock their keypads. Mobile misdials make up a "high proportion" of non-emergency calls made to 999, Blears said today.
There will be one major difference between 999 and 101 - unlike the well-known emergency services number, callers using 101 will be charged 10p per call from both landlines and mobiles.
Blears said that a small charge would deter individuals from abusing the service. The minister added that some users would be able to save money by calling 101 - when compared to some councils' 0845 numbers.
The 10p charge will be reviewed after the first of three stages of rollouts. The initial wave will see 101 go live in Cardiff, Leicester City and Rutland County, Sheffield and the Hampshire Police force and Northumbria Police force areas.
Cable and Wireless announced earlier this week that it had won the contract to provide the 101 service.