WEST Mercia Police is urging people to report crime online instead of calling 101 as they struggle to cope with demand.

A number of call handlers are currently self-isolating due to coronavirus, the force's assistant chief constable Rachel Jones said.

It means that as 999 calls are prioritised, there is a delay in answering calls to the non-emergency 101 number.

Rachel Jones said: “As with everyone, our staff are not immune to coronavirus and its consequences.

"We currently have a number of staff from our control room self-isolating and we are experiencing high levels of demand.

"As a result, there may be a delay in answering calls to 101 (our non-emergency number) as we prioritise 999 emergency calls.

"We are therefore asking for the public’s help in reducing 101 calls by reporting non-emergency matters online, via our website, wherever possible.

“We have a dedicated team triaging all online reports and they are serviced in the exact same way as they would be if made via 101. The 999 service continues as usual."

She reassured the public that there are robust plans in place to ensure 999 calls are always answered, even if staff are self-isolating.

She added: “We are prepared for a proportion of our workforce becoming ill or self-isolating and are taking precautions to minimise the spread of infection within the organisation.

"Robust contingency plans have been prepared to ensure that, no matter what, we are able to carry on providing critical policing services to all of our communities across Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire.

“As part of this we are currently working with Public Health England to ensure that we have all the right measures in place to protect our staff and to reduce the need for people to self-isolate.

“Throughout the country’s response to the global pandemic, police officers and staff have remained steadfast and dedicated to serving our communities, playing our part in minimising the spread of the virus through positive engagement and, where needed, enforcement of the regulations.”