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Burnaby working to cut ‘completely unacceptable’ wait times for RCMP non-emergency line

The City of Burnaby plans to have an in-house call centre for non-emergency police calls up and running this spring.
The City of Burnaby hopes to do away with long wait times for Burnaby RCMP's non-emergency line with a new call centre at the detachment.

The City of Burnaby hopes to cut down on ‘completely unacceptable’ wait times for Burnaby RCMP’s non-emergency line by having its own call centre up and running this spring.

‘Number 1 concern’

Both emergency and non-emergency calls currently go through E-Comm, the agency that coordinates 911 services for police, fire and ambulance across the Lower Mainland.

But residents and city officials alike have long been dissatisfied with long wait times on Burnaby RCMP’s non-emergency line.

In October 2021, Cory Redekop, former Burnaby Board of Trade director of policy and stakeholder relations, told the city’s public safety committee the non-emergency line was the “number 1 concern” BBOT was hearing from its members.

“There’s obviously the health and safety concerns of not getting through,” Redekop said,  “but I’m even more concerned around the negative feedback loop we might be seeing here, where we’re not reporting the crimes, so we’re seeing the numbers going down – and how can we possibly assess where resources need to go if people aren’t able to report?”

Dave Critchley, general manager of community safety, agreed, calling the wait times “completely unacceptable.”

“Not only are (police) not able to assist somebody who’s in need of their service, but also we’re being essentially robbed of the ability to understand the true crime that’s occurring in our community,” he said.

In-house call centre

In 2022, an estimated 21,731 calls to Burnaby RCMP’s non-emergency line were abandoned – more than half of all non-emergency calls received, according to E-Comm data.

To address the problem, Burnaby is taking matters into its own hands.

This spring, the city plans to launch its own non-emergency call centre to take calls between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., according to a news release Tuesday.

“When someone calls a non-emergency line they deserve to have their concerns addressed in a timely manner,” Mayor Mike Hurley said in the release. “Reducing wait times will serve residents better and improve community safety, and by offering this service in-house we will gain the benefits that come through increased connections between our staff and residents.”

Under the new plan, E-Comm will continue to take non-emergency calls overnight, and will continue to take emergency calls and handle dispatch for both emergency and non-emergency calls.

Just the beginning?

The new call centre will run out of the Burnaby RCMP detachment.

The city expects to spend about $125,000 to set up the facility and $475,000 annually to run it.

Taking on non-emergency calls in house will give the city a chance to evaluate its long-term goal to establish a "city operational call centre" that could handle all calls for police and fire, as well as general city calls, according to the news release.

📣 SOUND OFF: Tell us your story of waiting on hold for Burnaby RCMP's non-emergency line? Send us a letter.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor

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