More than 668,000 text messages have been sent to British Transport Police from members of the public and rail staff in the past ten years using the 61016 service. This has led to the conviction of criminals, the saving of lives and the dismantling of drug lines.
A decade after it started, a text is now received every two minutes into the force’s contact centre during daytime hours. In 2022, the force received texts relating to 472 reports of sexual harassment, 540 incidents involving a sexual offence, 573 hate crimes and 434 reports of theft.
The 61016 text service was launched by BTP in 2013 to give anyone reporting a crime the option to text instead of calling the police in a non-emergency.
Assistant Chief Constable Charlie Doyle explained,
“We wanted to provide rail users with a discreet way to contact us while travelling and share concerns, information or request police assistance during their journeys. The 61016 text service provided this, and offered an easy and convenient way to seek assistance whilst using the railway. 61016 was the first and only service of its kind in the UK.”
Text messages from the service go straight through to BTP’s Force Contact Centre, the same as a phone call. Dispatchers are then able to deal with the message, sending officers to the location if needed.
The text number is now complemented by the Railway Guardian app, launched last year, the only police-supported safety app available in the UK. Similar to the text number, all reports made via the app go straight to the BTP control room. Officers across the country can then be deployed to the nearest or next stop if required.