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AI helps Suffolk improve domestic violence reporting

A live chat service has enabled a force to upgrade its response to domestic violence incidents – and improver caller safety.

Suffolk has taken a step forward to digitising its control room by piloting an AI system to help domestic violence victims.

The force revealed it has been able to improve responses to domestic violence calls by using a live chat system that can also create statements and translate instantly into other languages.

The system, developed by IT firm Futr, has a set of features designed to gain evidence faster and shorten the time needed to compile statements.

The live contact with the control room operator can be attached to the crime report as a document so rather than just having one notebook that had been written by an officer, the transcript adds further detail including the impact of the incident.

It also has multiple safety functions, such as a quick exit button which diverts to the BBC and leaves no trace of the interaction in the browser history.

During the one-month-long pilot scheme, 72.5% of interactions were with new users and 27.5% were returning users.

The average conversation length was 40 minutes, indicating that victims were comfortable having a detailed and in-depth conversation via online live chat.

The pilot is part of Suffolk’s digital strategy and its response to violence against women and girls (VAWG).

In Suffolk last year there 9,371 incidents in the year to March 2021 and 666 legal decisions made by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Suffolk Police receive a report of Domestic Abuse once every 1hr 20mins and a serious sexual offence is reported every 5 ½ hours.

In its last PEEL inspection the force was rated good at handling complex and serious crime and protecting vulnerable people.

But Assistant Chief Constable Rob Jones,wants a system wide shift from being reactive, to being pro-active – both in prevention and enforcement.

He 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."

Suffolk estimates just 18% of incidents are reported, partly due to the limited options for contacting officers.

ACC Jones said: “A lot of people, especially when anxious or scared, don't want to speak on the telephone - often in a language that isn't their first language - to someone they don't know. Our live chat pilot has instant language translation which enables us to explain people's options better.”

The firm that developed the system hopes more forces will follow Suffolk’s lead.

Andy Wilkins, CEO of Futr said: " For forces like Suffolk, live chat provides a level field where victims receive the same speed and consistency of response no matter how they access the service."

"We are very proud to have partnered with Suffolk Police on this important pilot."

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