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Slow response to attempted Dingwall break-in report to police concerns former cop


By Alasdair Fraser

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Brenda Jack was the victim of an attempted break-in on Saturday, after which police took 27 hours to respond. Picture: Callum Mackay
Brenda Jack was the victim of an attempted break-in on Saturday, after which police took 27 hours to respond. Picture: Callum Mackay

A RETIRED plain clothes detective has expressed shock at the slow response of police officers after being left shaken by an attempted break-in at her Dingwall home.

Brenda Jack rose early on Saturday morning to discover someone had been trying to prise open her rear patio doors.

Gouges and scratches suggested the culprit had attempted to force entry.

Trample marks through long grass between her Logan Drive home and nearby Kinnairdie Brae revealed where they may have slipped into her back garden.

Almost 28 hours later, and after three phone calls, a local constable finally attended.

It took a full nine minutes for police to answer her initial crime report.

Marks on the door where an attempt in entry was made. She has since beefed up security and urged others to be cautious.
Picture: Callum Mackay
Marks on the door where an attempt in entry was made. She has since beefed up security and urged others to be cautious. Picture: Callum Mackay
“It worries me greatly. The picture this paints for the police is just so negative."

Despite 30 years' experience in the force – as a constable on the beat, within CID, and in the Inverness control room – Ms Jack was left distressed by the experience.

She fears a sluggish response rate to potentially serious incidents could undermine public trust and confidence in Police Scotland.

She said: “I don’t want to sound like a dinosaur, but when I worked in the control room it was a matter of pride that we responded to calls within seconds.

“I can’t believe I had to wait on the line for nine minutes for an initial response and 27-and-a-half hours for someone to attend.

“I've no gripe with the control room staff, it's the system. I’m someone who lives alone, just me and the dogs, and I’ve also been shielding for four months. The one place you usually feel safe is in your own home.

“It worries me greatly. The picture this paints for the police is just so negative.

“It makes it seem as if they don’t care and I’m concerned it could deter people from reporting crimes or reacting to witness appeals.For the victim of a break-in or attempted break-in, it is a horrible feeling. As a police officer I could always empathise.

“But despite 30 years service, a work situation is different from your personal life and I was quite surprised by how shaken and nervous it made me feel.”

“I just want to make local people aware that this is happening and to take steps to limit the risk.”

Ms Jack immediately ordered a security camera, better security lights and an internal lock-in bar for the patio doors.

Recalling the delays in response from her initial 6 am awakening, she said: “I didn’t phone the police straight away because I know their shift-change is usually about 7am. I thought I’d do the decent thing and wait until the day shift started.

“I called at 8 am and after nine minutes on the phone, I got a response from the Dundee call centre. They noted the details then advised me somebody would call me back to take a report. I waited until 1.30pm when a police officer in the resolution team took the details and told me it was now in the system and somebody local would attend.

“I waited and waited, but nothing happened. By 6pm, I phoned back and they said they’d pass it on to the local officers. That was it until 11.30am the next day, Sunday morning.

“A pleasant enough young guy turned up and told me local officers hadn’t even been aware of it until that morning.He seemed genuinely upset and concerned that something like that could happen on their patch.”

Responses to Ms Jack’s post on social media gave anecdotal evidence of several attempted break-ins nearby that hadn’t been reported.

She added: “My incident seemed to be written off as a one-off incident. It’s not – there’s somebody hanging around.

“I just want to make local people aware that this is happening and to take steps to limit the risk.”

Contacted for comment, Chief Superintendent Roddy Newbigging, divisional commander of Contact, Command and Control Division said: "Police Scotland introduced a new way of assessing calls to its 101 and 999 service. This new approach provides an enhanced assessment of vulnerability at first point of contact and is subject to ongoing robust scrutiny by the Scottish Police Authority and HMICS.

"Making an effective assessment of vulnerability at first point of contact is a key element of the changes we are making to provide a better service to the public – ensuring we put the safety of those most in need at the heart of our decision making.

"In June alone, our call handlers managed around 174,000 calls to our 101 line within an average of two minutes. In May they answered almost ten thousand more calls within the same average response time.

"To determine the most appropriate and proportionate policing response, our officers and staff have received specialist training to allow them to make an enhanced assessment of threat, risk, harm and vulnerability. Given our reduced attendance at incidents due to the current health crisis, our initial telephone response on this specific occasion was entirely suitable and very much a part of our risk assessment at this time.

"There will always be a level of risk that must be managed in police call handling and we continue to review and improve processes to mitigate these risks in the future."

Timeline:

Saturday

Early hours: awakes to hear her dogs barking, but dismisses it as harmless.

6 am: Rises to let her border collies out into the garden only to find clear evidence of an attempted break-in.

8 am waits until after the police shift-change to call 101 and spends nine minutes waiting for a reply. Told someone will call her back.

1.30 pm: Call from Dundee control centre. Police officer takes details for a second time.

6 pm calls to ask why no-one has attended. Told the matter would be passed to local officers.

Sunday

11.30 am: Officer attends to investigate.

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