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Suffolk Police provides webchat support for domestic abuse victims


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Suffolk Police has piloted an online live chat function to support victims of domestic abuse.

It has run a month-long scheme using a solution from chat-as-a-service provider Futr and is now laying plans for a permanent service.

The company has reported that 72.5% of the interactions were with new users and 27.5% with returning users and the average conversation length was 40 minutes, indicating that victims were comfortable with using the channel.

Assistant Chief Constable at Suffolk Police Rob Jones said: “Live chat’s potential is underestimated. When you look at why live chat is often used, so much of it is about taking out transactional work and making it more efficient. Not enough of it is about helping people and victims in terms of emotional engagement.

“It isn’t just about freeing up expertise to be able to concentrate on other things. It’s also providing experts with a different channel to provide their service really well.”

He added that many people are reluctant to speak on the telephone, especially when English is not their first language, and that the pilot has involved the use of instant language translation, which has made it possible for police officers to better explain people’s options.

Easing DASH assessments

Futr said the force also found that live chat interactions helped make assessments using the DASH (domestic abuse, stalking, harassment and honour based violence) risk assessment easier. Users were more likely to share more in-depth information and present that in a coherent way than when speaking over the phone or face to face to an officer.

In addition, the live chat log provided a permanent record of interactions which could be attached to a crime report, providing higher quality information than an officer’s notes.

Andy Wilkins, CEO of Futr, pointed out the the service provides for untraceable, silent interactions with emergency services.

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