The chief constable of Cambridgeshire police has called for a better “focus” on criminality after it was revealed more than 80 per cent of calls to the force are non-crime incidents.

In the 12 months to December 31, 2015, some 439,569 calls were answered by police operators, with 183,114 recorded.

Of these, a staggering 149,653 were closed as non-crime incidents, including 21,648 calls relating to anti-social behaviour, such as littering, fireworks, and even begging.

Chief Constable for Cambridgeshire, Alec Wood, said: "The priorities for the constabulary are around safeguarding the most vulnerable in our society, attacking criminality, preventing crime with partners, delivering value for money and reassuring the public are the five key aims of the force.

"The biggest issue for us to deal with, in order to make sure we are delivering against all of those priorities as effectively as we can, is that just over 80 per cent of our calls are not actually crime-related issues."

In the year running up to December 2015, 37 per cent of calls were about public safety and welfare (68,069), 16 per cent about administration (29,962), 14 per cent about transport (26,532), and 12 per cent concerning anti-social behaviour (21,648).

And two per cent (3,442) of callers believing they were reporting an actual crime were eventually listed as non-crime incidents - with incidents ranging from criminal damage to suspicious behaviour.

Mr Wood, who was speaking at a briefing in June, added: "We deal with an average of eight missing people a day in the county and each of those obviously takes a lot of officer time and needs to be properly investigated. Of course that can turn out to be serious case of crime, but usually doesn't."

He also said the force deals with 20 to 25 mental health incidents a day, and that other agencies "could, and maybe should" be dealing with them.

"One of the challenges I think we've got at the moment is to try and find a way of reducing that demand - that 80 per cent bulk of calls to the service - finding a way of working differently so that we are able to focus more on tackling criminality."

Despite the high numbers, police insist serious incidents will always be top priority.

A spokesman said: "While the number of non-crime related calls are high and equate to a large percentage of our overall calls for service, each report is graded and officers are dispatched based on the level of risk, threat or harm to the public.

"Therefore, all low-level crimes, and those which are not classed as a crime will be lower on the priority list for us to focus our resources on. Those with the highest risk to life will always come first."