West Yorkshire Police has admitted it is struggling to cope with high levels of demand after it received a record number of calls last weekend.
More than 2,300 emergency 999 calls were made to the force on Saturday, July 6 – the highest ever for a single day in its history.
The area’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson said that recent hot weather and the World Cup was responsible for a spike in calls across the country over the past “two to three months”.
Last Saturday, officers in West Yorkshire had to supervise demonstrations related to the Tommy Robinson court case in Leeds and another organised by the National Front in Wakefield.
On the same day, England played Sweden in their World Cup quarter-final as temperatures soared.
On top of 999 calls, there were nearly 3,000 non-emergency incidents on Saturday.
Speaking at a PCC Panel meeting on Friday, Mr Burns-Williamson said: “Demand has increased across the country. It’s not just in West Yorkshire. There’s probably a number of factors behind that.
“We’ve had weeks of very hot weather and there’s also been the football as well.
“Last Saturday West Yorkshire Police handled more than 2,300 999 calls. That’s the highest ever recorded.”
But while emergency calls made in the region are being picked up by operators within five seconds, 101 callers are waiting an average of “eight or nine minutes” before the phone is answered.
This is significantly longer during peak times like the afternoon.
Leeds councillor Salma Arif said a colleague had recently waited in a phone queue for 50 minutes before giving up, a delay Mr Burns-Williamson described as “really concerning”.
West Yorkshire’s Deputy chief constable (DCC) said the force had been pushed into a “poor position” and that the spike hadn’t been foreseen.
DCC John Robins said: “A while ago we were in a really good place for (dealing with) 101 calls. But the last two to three months have seen a national increase in 999 calls. It has shot up.
“Staff are dealing with those and so are not able to answer the 101 calls. It’s a position we don’t want to be in. It’s something that wasn’t predicted.”
DCC Robins said that tackling the problem was the force’s “priority” and that extra resources were being ploughed into contact centres.
But he added: “It’s not as simple as throwing someone off the street into it, because they have to be trained.”
It was suggested that local councils might be partly to blame for the high volume of calls.
Mr Burns-Williamson said that some authorities were incorrectly encouraging people to call the police about issues that were not relevant to the force.
He said: “We are getting calls that aren’t police calls.
“Anecdotally, I’m hearing some council services that have closed down over the weekend are just saying, “ring 101”.
“That’s not right. There’s got to be some work done about what’s happening with calls that public services should be fielding and are just being transported to 101.”