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New police website sees fivefold rise in crime reports

PUBLISHED: 09:30 01 May 2018 | UPDATED: 09:30 01 May 2018

Suffolk police control room. Picture: LAUREN DE BOISE

Suffolk police control room. Picture: LAUREN DE BOISE

Archant

Police have seen a more than fivefold increase in crimes reported online in Suffolk since the launch of a new website.

The number rocketed from 931 the year before the upgrade went live, to 4,860 in the last 12 months.

Relaunched in August 2016, suffolk.police.uk now includes additional facilities for reporting and tracking crimes.

It attracted more than 2.4m more page views in a year – up almost 40 per cent – while social media use climbed to an average of up to 17 Facebook messages an hour.

Police saw a big increase in views during the winter storm, and said a “good percentage” of ‘contact us to report’ page views related to lost and found property – indicating a ‘channel shift’ from front counters and the contact and control room (CCR).

Analysis showed online reports account for 9pc of recorded crime.

The rise came at the same time as a 5pc annual increase in 999 demand – with 5,500 more calls in 12 months to February. Yet CCR staff surpassed targets by picking up 90.5pc of calls in 10 seconds.

A report to the Police and Crime Commissioner said a rise in website reports was similar to the CCR demand curve – backing up theories that the public shifts channels when lines are busy.

Increased CCR demand made it difficult to accurately record the shift, but the report said a significantly higher percentage of crime was now reported online, and that the vast majority would otherwise be reported by phone.

Patricia O’Brien, Police and Crime Panel chairman, said people should select a method of communication based on priority.

“I think it depends on what people are reporting,” she added.

“If it was a serious matter, of course, I think they would prefer to speak to someone directly.”

Chief Inspector Matt Rose, who leads the CCR, said: “999 remains for emergencies, but we encourage anyone reporting a non-urgent matter to consider visiting our website, which gives advice on what’s appropriate and signposts users to other services.

“You will potentially be saving the time of 101 call handlers, who are the same staff who answer 999 calls, while saving 15p on a call.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: “We want to make it easy for people to report intelligence at any time of the day.

“The website also offers a lot of information on crime prevention and I’m glad it appears to be working well.”

Technology

Nine new staff began CCR training in April, while four existing staff are seconded to test a new Internet Protocol (IP) telephony system, which promises better quality of communication, management of surge in demand and ability to prioritise calls.

If non-emergency callers are waiting in a queue, tailored messages will offer details of the website to report a crime.

If police are dealing with numerous reports of flooding in one area, a message could be added to the automated greeting, providing information and warning of any delay in answering.

The system can handle email, text messages, social media and webchat, allowing ‘channel shift’ from calls to other methods of contact.

Police are also working with the developer of an app called what3words to explore the use of a mapping system which can narrow down a person’s location to a three-metre radius, and could be of particular use in rural areas or at big events like festivals.

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