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You can now report non-urgent crimes to Greater Manchester Police using a live chat service

People can report non-urgent crime to the police via live web chat.

GMP has begun trialling this new system with 15 12-hour stints taking place so far on weekday nights and weekends.

The hope is that it will take some pressure off the 101 number which is supposed to be used for reporting non-urgent crime but has been under strain. In June some callers waited up to three hours to be answered and one in four people abandoned their call.

When the service is available, a link appears on the GMP home page. When clicked on, this opens up a window and if an operator is free, it starts a live chat or places you in a queue if not. If there are too many people queuing, the option will be removed from the website until pressure has eased.

During a trial on Friday between 12pm and 12am, more than 200 chats took place.

Rob Birkett, Digital Manager at GMP, said: “It’s about doing as much as we can to reduce demand via the 101 systems.

“On Friday night we had someone report a stolen car and we had solved the crime within seven minutes. This is among a number of successes so far.”

He said many people were using the live chat option when they didn’t feel confident to speak on the phone.

“This is not a knee-jerk reaction to 101 line complaints, this is just expanding our digital operations. We want to open up as many channels as possible.

“We will continue testing but ultimately we want to open this up as another channel to bring massive benefit to the public.

“Feedback from both the public and operators has been fantastic and we’ve had some great results.”

GMP has so far has more than 1,300 chats and they are publicising the service on social media.

During the trial there has been only one operator on at a time, with the capability of having six concurrent chats.

But if the trial is successful, it’s likely more staff would be recruited.

Those trialling the scheme, which is a collaboration between the digital team led by digital developer James Tym, and the Operations Communications Branch which runs the 101 line, have not been taken off the 101 call centre to do so. And there are no plans to shelve 101, only to enhance it. Police are looking at whether 101 callers could be given a ‘callback’ option when the system is busy.

He said as many as 10 per cent of 101 callers rang to ask questions that could be answered by looking on the GMP website.

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