London consults on more online contact for police

Mayor’s consultation document includes focus on stepping up web reporting capabilities to deal with reduction in public counters for Met Police

The Mayor of London has indicated there could be a shift away from the use of public-facing counters towards more online reporting of crime by the city’s police force.

Sadiq Khan has published a consultation on a new strategy on public access and engagement with the Metropolitan Police that includes an emphasis on stepping up the use of online channels.

New Scotland Yard trianglular signIt comes in response to the force facing £400 million in cuts by 2021, and calculations that it is possible to raise £170 million by closing front counters and redirect £10 million a year into frontline policing.

While one 24-hour counter would be kept open in every borough, there would be an increased emphasis on telephone contact and the use of the Met Police website and social media.

The force soft launched a new mobile-friendly website in March, with a facility to report and provide details on any type of crime, along with road incidents and suspicions about possible terrorist activity. The consultation document said it has brought a positive response and that the police are receiving accurate and timely information, reducing the need for call backs to members of the public.

There are plans for a formal launch of the website later in the year.

Evidence capability

This is accompanied by a proposal for a digital service through which people could upload evidence such as images and video, report anti-social behaviour and webchat with contact centre staff.

Victims of crime would also be able to track the progress of a case or issue online.

Another proposal involves building up the use of social media, with plans for the Met Police to pilot a new service in which experienced call handlers respond to requests for help through Twitter. The document says this should allow the force to respond to concerns about crime that might not otherwise be picked up.

The Mayor’s Office said the proposals have been given weight by a recent survey in which 37% of Londoners said they would prefer to contact the police using the website, social media and other digital methods. It was also found that 90% of people already online would consider using online policing services in the right circumstances.

It said that since the March launch of online reporting on the new website there has already been a 350% increase in the use of online methods, with 1,200 reports a week made during its initial phase.

Safety and savings

Khan said: “My top priority is keeping Londoners safe, and every pound saved by closing a front counter is a pound of savings that we do not have to find by reducing the frontline.

“By freeing up officers and moving them closer to their communities, they will be able to spend more time on the beat to tackle the issues that matter most to Londoners, such as knife crime, anti-social behaviour, hate crime and extremism, and domestic abuse.”

 Image from Metropolitan Police Service