Melbourne, Australia, May 21, 2020 -- The number of Victorians calling the Police Assistance Line hit a record high last month due to an influx in reports relating to breaches of the Chief Health Officer (CHO) directions.
Initially designed for reporting non-urgent crimes, the Police Assistance Line took on an entirely new function at the start of the coronavirus pandemic when the community could report breaches of the CHO directions.
The result was a 30 per cent increase in calls to the Police Assistance Line – with 102,034 calls received in April compared to 70,983 in March.
The information collated has been provided to Operation Sentinel which is focused on enforcing directions of the CHO.
Inspector Steve Towers said the service also directly assisted frontline police by handling reports of a non-urgent nature freeing up members to attend emergencies.
"For every call that we take, we hand precious time back to our frontline police who can focus on being out in the community responding to and preventing crime," Insp Towers said.
"It also means the community can connect with police without having to leave their home or attend their nearest police station. They can have their call answered in minutes and their reports taken without delay.
"Before the pandemic, our most common reports were in relation to theft of motor car, theft from motor car, lost property and theft, and we would receive around 2500 calls a day," Insp Towers said.
At the peak of the pandemic the Police Assistance Line and Online Reporting averaged between 3500 and 11500 calls a day, with by far the most common call types relating to coronavirus breaches.
Extra staff were recruited in late March to assist with the expected influx along with 12 members of the Australian Defence Force who were brought on board to assist with urgent calls.
"Although the service wasn’t set up to assist in state-wide emergencies, we’ve managed to make a real difference, such as during the bushfires when we recorded residents who were looking to be returned to Mallacoota," Insp Towers said.
"As a result of this, we were asked to take reports relating to coronavirus breaches and we had to set it up in quite a short amount of time. SERCO who are contracted to run the contact centre helped to make this happen.
"It’s a sign that we’ll be able to adapt to new trends in the future and provide a service that meets the needs of our community.
"If we can do our part to help people in our community, then we can go home at the end of each day feeling very satisfied."
"Our core business of taking non-urgent crime reports is very much a part of what we continue to do, and we encourage people to keep reaching out by either calling or reporting online."
The community can continue to report non-urgent crime and events, as well as breaches of Chief Health Officer directions by calling the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or submitting an online report
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
About New South Wales Police Force:
The New South Wales Police Force is Australia's oldest and largest police organisation and one of the biggest in the English speaking world.
Published: Friday, May 22, 2020
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