Thames Valley Police (TVP) have reassured community leaders concerned about the ability of the public to report crimes.

Average waiting times for 101 calls to TVP to be answered have gone up by more than 400% in the last year.

A freedom of information (FOI) request by Peter Bowyer, Oxford Road Safer Neighbourhood Forum chairman, discovered the startling figures.

Mr Bowyer said: “The whole system is breaking down. It has become very difficult to report things on 101. I think it is demand for 999 that is causing it.

“Police are no longer seeing evidence of what is going on in streets because nobody is reporting incidents.”

Cllr Rowland raised the issue at the policy committee on Monday at Reading Borough Council (RBC), where Francis Habgood, chief constable, and Anthony Stansfield, police crime commissioner, delivered their annual reports.

She said: "When people call 101 they call to give in essential information contributing vital statistics and intelligence.

"Can you let us know if you intend to bring 101 back to its previous levels?”

Francis Habgood, TVP chief constable, said: “We are working really hard trying to get call handling back to an acceptable level.

“Whether we are going to get back to where we were in 2014 or 2015 I am not sure.

“So many calls that are coming into the police are about crisis issues. There are too many organisations saying, if it is out of hours, call the police.”

He said TVP were down on contact centre staff in the summer but have since recruited back to acceptable levels. It will take new staff a bit time to get to get up to the skill level required.

He added: “We have increased the opportunity for people to report online. We are finding a significant increase in the amount of people using that facility.

“We are making more improvements over the next four months. It will be easier to use.”

Waiting times for 101 calls have shot up from around one and a half minutes in October 2017 to more than seven minutes in September 2018; a 477 per cent rise.

The most significant rise has happened in the last three months, while average calls have gone down in the last two months.

Anthony Stansfield, police crime commissioner, said: “We have got to have it much better. Because of the reductions in police stations, people have to be able to contact the police.”