RESIDENTS had a chance to challenge police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill over the performance of the police force at a public meeting tonight.

A community engagement forum held in Boscombe began by debating the “unacceptable” delays facing callers using the 101 non-emergency phone number.

One resident claimed he had given up after waiting 55 minutes for the number to be answered, while another said she had waited 23 minutes.

Superintendent Jared Parkin – who said he had not heard of waiting times reaching 55 minutes – said there had been a 27.5 per cent increase in non-emergency calls over the same period last year.

Mr Underhill told the meeting: “It’s frustrating for people. I understand that. “We are working hard to try and resolve it.

“We must have a 101 service that works, otherwise people won’t have confidence in their police force.”

Supt Parkin said the force was saving £1.3million by merging two control rooms into one based at Winfrith – a big enough saving to pay for at least 25 more police officers in Bournemouth.

Mr Underhill said the extra officers would make a difference.

He added: “We’re achieving that by merging two control rooms but we’re getting a lot of pain in doing it and the pain is we’re not getting your phones answered.”

At the meeting, residents also raised their concerns about prostitution, the state of housing in Boscombe and the number of drug rehabilitation centres.