Average Police 999 Response Time: UK Stats

The average police response time in 2022 to a grade 1 emergency is 16.5 minutes. A grade 1 response is graded for the most serious crimes where a police officer will be disptached urgently, with lights and sirens being permitted in order to get to the scene in the fastest possible time.

Unfortunately, over the years, this average response time has crept up. In this article, I’ll look at the average police 999 repsonse time, and how it has differed over the years. I’ll also explain how a 999 call is handled, how a call is graded, and the impacts of social, polital and economic policies that have widened the response times in recent years.

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Average Police 999 Response Time

As stated, the average police 999 response time was 16.5 minutes in 2022.

This is a minute and a half (or 90 seconds) over the expected police 999 response time.

In 2011, this response time was around 6 minutes, with the response times generlly rising year on year.

Police Response Gradings Explained

When you call 999, the call handler will ‘grade’ the response needed based on pre-determined factors.

The grades are:

  • Grade 1
  • Grade 2
  • Grade 3
  • Grade 4
  • Grade 5

The call handler will grade these based on pre-determined criteria.

police 999 response time uk data

It’s important to know that grades can be either upgraded or downgraded at any time, especially if new information comes to light.

A section sergeant or inspector can also request the communications call handler to upgrade or downgrade calls as and when necessary.

Grade 1 Response With Examples

A grade 1 police response is for the most serious of crimes. A police officer should attend within 15 minutes of the emergency call. A grade 1 response initiates an immediate police response, with the police officer being able to use sirens and lights to get to the scene in the fastest time possible.

For example, a call handler will grade a call as grade 1 for the following examples:

  • Where there is an imminent threat to life.
  • Where there is an imminent threat to property.
  • Use of or threat of use of violence.
  • A crime is in progress.
  • An offender has been detained and poses a risk.
  • A road traffic collison where there is serious injury or carrigeways are blocked.

Grade 2 response With Examples

A grade 2 response is for crimes of a less serious nature. This response does not require a police officer to be dispatched immediately to a scene, but they should attend within 1 hour. Under grade 2 conditions, a police officer is not permitted to use lights and sirens.

For example, a call handler will grade a call as grade 2 for the following examples:

  • There is concern for someones safety.
  • An offender has been detained but poses no risk.
  • Evidence or a witness may be lost if attendance is over one hour.
  • The call handler identifies the caller as vulnerable.

Grade 3 Response With Examples

A grade 3 response is for crimes that don’t need an urgent attendance. They should attend within 4 hours. A police officer will not be dispatched immediately, and lights and sirens are not permitted to be used.

This grade essentially becomes an ‘earmarked’ job, that being, listed as a job in a list of jobs a specific police officer will have to attend within that shift. However, some grade 2 jobs can be passed onto the next shift if that police officer doesn’t get around to it.

For example, a call handler will grade a call as grade 3 for the following examples:

  • Missing from home.
  • Where the caller refuses a grade 4 or 5 response.
  • For public confidence.

Grade 4 and Grade 5 Responses

Grade 4 and 5 responses don’t need a police officer to attend.

Grade 4 responses should be dealt with within 48 hours, and can be a phone call to the ‘aggrieved’ with a resolution at the end of it.

Grade 5 responses can be dealt with in any timeframe, don’t require police attendance, but do require a telephone call and a resolution at the end of it.

When I talk about a resolution for these grades, I’m talking about the log being closed, the crime either reported as a crime or not, and no further police action.

A resolution can be something as simple as ‘advice given’, with the log then being closed.

For example, a call handler will grade a call as grade 4 or 5 for the following examples:

  • There is no immediate threat of injury or violence to any person.
  • There is no immediate threat to property.
  • Criminal damage has been discovered and the offender is not at the scene.
  • All other low level crimes that would not need a police officer to attend.

A good example of this is when your car sustains damage, but you don’t know who the offender is. When my car was damaged, it was graded either 4 or 5. A police officer called me by phone, and I was able to provide the log number to my insurance provider.

Police Funding & Budgets

Police funding has risen substantially over the years, as seen below by ONS data.

police 999 response time and budgets
Source: ONS

However, what must be taken into account is that some funding has been diverted into new policing departments, such as cyber crime and counter terrorism.

Population Growth

Since the 1960’s to present, UK population has grown from around 50 million people to 60 million people.

uk population
Source: Data Commons

Funding and the employment of frontline officers (those that deal with crimes on the frontline) have simply not kept up with this important metric.

For example, take a look at the Met police frontline officers employed over the past 12 years – it’s pretty much stayed the same.

police frontline officers met police
Source: Statista

With the 20% population increase from 50 million to 60 million people, and then looking at tables and graphs like those above, it’s easy to see why the average police 999 response time has increased.

Moreover, the response time will continue to increase over the coming years if budgets and frontline officers in employemnt are not increased substantially.


Police services across England have seen an abundance of policy change over the last 10 or 20 years.

Add to that the stagnant amount of police officers employed in frontline roles, combine it with an ever increasing population, and it’s easy to see why the average police 999 response time has increased over the last decade or so.

It also underlines just how important home security is, and your own safety and security when out in public.

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My name is Richard.

I'm 40 years old. And I have nearly 20 years experience in various safety and security industries.

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