Despite years of efforts in Charlotte, N.C., to reduce the time non-emergency callers to police spend waiting, many are on hold for seven minutes or longer, reports the Charlotte Observer. On Tuesday, a new call-in system fielded 413 calls — “way more than we ever imagined,” said an official. The new system, which cost the city $20,185, can hold 252 calls at a time. It fields all the calls into the unit, rather than, in effect, rejecting those that can’t get through. The problem with hold times doesn’t apply to emergency calls to 911. Those are almost always answered in a few seconds.
But when the 311 operator sends you to the Crime Reporting Unit, you’ll probably end up holding. When one woman reported a stolen car, she waited on the non-emergency line for 30 minutes. She hung up and called back later. This time, she held for 50 minutes before someone took her report. The hold time may be luck of the draw. An Observer reporter called the line twice this week. On Wednesday afternoon, a staffer picked up after 35 seconds. On Thursday morning, the reporter hung up after 15 minutes on hold.