THE region’s biggest police force has thanked the public for heeding requests to use its website to report non-emergencies, rather than ringing the control room.

A statement from Northumbria Police to inhabitants in the force area, from Wearside to the Scottish border, said reports using online forums has increased 55-per cent in the last week.

But the overall number of reports to the force, including calls to report non-emergency incidents, has dropped by 15-per cent compared to the monthly average over the same seven years.

The public statement said: “We want to thank you for listening to us and thinking twice about calling 101, after people contacting us online increased by more than 50 per cent!

“In recent days we have been asking you to think about whether you can visit our website instead of picking up the phone to report a non-emergency.

“We wanted you to do this because we needed to make sure our call handlers were able to talk to those who need us most.”

Due to the coronavirus epidemic several of the force’s communication centre staff are working from home and, while they are unable to take calls, they can assist with online queries.

Chief Superintendent Neil Hutchison, who oversees the work of force call handlers, has urged the public to continue going online for non-emergency inquiries.

“We have all been inspired by how our communities have come together in these challenging times, so in many ways these figures come as no surprise.

“However, the response to our request for help has been fantastic and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, wholeheartedly.

“We are not exempt from the impact of coronavirus on our workforce and there are a number of call handlers who have been unable to physically come in to work.

“But they are determined to do all they can to support our communities and, while they can’t answer calls, they can respond to online inquiries.

Chief Supt Hutchison’s own message to the public was: “You’re are playing your part in keeping your local communities safe, allowing us to remain available for those vulnerable people who do need to speak to us on the phone.

“Please, continue to report information online whenever possible and if you have any questions about the stay-at-home restrictions in place then please visit the website rather than contact us.

“It is important we all follow the Government measures which have been put in place to keep us all safe.

“The message is clear, stay at home to save lives.

“We all have a part to play in combating the coronavirus.

“At this critical time we need to make sure our emergency lines are free for those most in need.”

Anyone needing to speak to police about a crime, is asked to assist by using the force’s online forms instead of calling 101.

The forms can be accessed by searching for Northumbria Police - Report an Incident, on internet browsers, or by visiting the force website.

In emergencies the 999 call remains the best option.