For the first time, rail passengers across the North West can report incidents to police via text, following the launch of a new non-emergency text number by British Transport Police (BTP).

The new text short code, 61016, will give passengers an additional tool to report incidents in real time wherever there is a mobile phone signal. The number is designed to capture low level, non-emergency incidents, similar to the non-emergency 101 phone number used by local forces.

Chief Superintendent Peter Holden, NW Area Commander, said: “By creating a text capability we are looking to give passengers greater accessibility to British Transport Police which, in turn, should mean rail users are more likely to report incidents, such as anti-social behaviour. This will us a better understanding of the nature, number, time and location of incidents which may previously have gone unreported.

“The service has been implemented following extensive consultation with train operators and will not only give BTP a more rounded picture of the level of crime and disorder on the network, but will also give rail staff another way of reporting their concerns and alerting police to potential issues.”

BTP Deputy Chief Constable, Paul Crowther said: “BTP aims to be as open and responsive as possible and this is the next logical step for us. Text messaging is a quick and everyday way to communicate and passengers want to be able to contact us this way.

“By encouraging passengers to also report incidents via text, we hope we will get a more complete picture of the sort of low level but all too common incidents that affect people’s journeys across the network.

“However, text messages should never be sent in an emergency situation as there are no guarantees that they send correctly or are received promptly.”

The 61016 text number will be monitored 24/7 and whilst it is not for reporting emergencies, there will be the capacity to send a policing response if required.

DCC Crowther added: “Low level anti-social behaviour, which we know often occurs on trains later at night and when people have been drinking, is undoubtedly under reported. Passengers tend to accept or ignore the minority who make the journeys unpleasant for everyone else.

“We hope that the ease of being able to send a quick text message will encourage more passengers to report incidents when they occur. By building up a more accurate picture we can better focus our resources.”

David Sidebottom, Passenger Focus director, said: “Passengers tell us that they generally feel safe on the railway, however, they will welcome this initiative as it will provide them with an easy way to highlight the problems they come across.”

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