A police inspector teamed up with his local paper to host an online community policing meeting with a town’s residents.
Inspector Dave Barf and the Whitby Gazette held what is believed to be first ‘virtual’ community policing meeting.
The experiment was such a success that it could be used as a model for future online chats on other subjects.
Fears that it would generate no interest were allayed when 30 people logged on to put questions to the head of Whitby Police.
The event was set up by Ben Nolan, head of digital content at Yorkshire Regional Newspapers, and Whitby Gazette editor Damian Holmes.
A service called CoverItLive was used to host the chat which allowed all comments to be pre-moderated.
Damian said: “I’ve wanted to try and get some sort of online web chat going for a while and when we spoke to Insp Barf about setting up a dedicated police section on our website, we both felt an online forum could work really well.
“There was always the concern nobody would log on but we received questions constantly throughout the two hours.
“I used our e-billing system to notify people about it as well as promoting it in the paper and on our website.”
Insp Barf believes it may be the first time any force has used a newspaper website to carry out an online forum and also the first time the any police have done such a forum online.
Questions asked related to issues such as speeding, antisocial behaviour and perception of young people.
Insp Barf said after the forum: “My biggest fear was silence. Thankfully, we’ve had some sensible and intelligent comment.
“I have found it very useful indeed and, depending on feedback, will be repeating it.”
Visit the Whitby Gazette website to see the forum.