Cambridgeshire

Crime victims in 'Skype' Cambridgeshire police trial

Skype logo Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Skype calls between police and crime victims would bring greater flexibility, say police.

Crime victims are being asked to speak to police on Skype instead of being interviewed at home by officers.

The trial by Cambridgeshire Police aims to free-up time for neighbourhood patrols and offer more flexibility for victims.

But the move has been criticised as a money-saving measure.

The Police Federation raised concerns for those people unable to use or afford the technology required for the online audio-visual call system.

The Cambridgeshire force claimed Skype will provide greater flexibility for victims, as well as allowing better response times.

The Home Office said it would be up to other individual forces to decide on whether adopt a similar approach.

Image caption The Skype trial will provide appointments from 08:00 to 22:00 seven days a week

Oz Merrygold, secretary of Cambridgeshire Police Federation, said due to cuts to policing it is "just not possible anymore" to send officers out on crimes such as burgled homes.

He claimed police roles need to be "redefined" and "austerity" measures meant forces having to take difficult decisions, leading to technological solutions.


Analysis:

Dr Daniel Dresner, cyber security lecturer University of Manchester

It wouldn't be possible to the 'average Joe' to hack these calls but it's a bigger debate about whether it's actually possible. I would hope that the police computers would be secure.

We've seen cases where webcams can be hacked. That's not anything to do with Skype, it's the fact that the whole set up might not be secure, including the webcam and computer.

But it's a relatively low risk compared to whether it's an appropriate way to conduct interviews.

I would be worried about the quality of an interview which is conducted over Skype compared to a normal interview done face-to-face.

I would have thought there were dos and don'ts and recommendations for conducting an interview over the internet.


Supt Melanie Dales, area commander for Peterborough, said using Skype would help people with busy lives and bring police more in line with other services, such as doctors' surgeries.

"It will allow officers, who use a large proportion of time travelling to and from appointments, more time to patrol their neighbourhoods," she said.

A spokeswoman for the National Police Chiefs' Council said: "Police are expecting further significant reductions to budgets as well as responding to changes in crime and demand on the service.

"All chiefs are having to prioritise and look at where they can make savings or provide services differently so they can continue to provide the vital services that reduce crime and protect people."

The Home Office spokesman said: "We support attempts to give victims of crime greater choice in how they report crime and engage with the police and the police must embrace new technology as forces deliver the next phase of police reform.

"Cambridgeshire Police has been clear that the pilot is not for reporting emergencies and officers will still carry out home visits where necessary. People should always call 999 if a crime is in progress or when violence is being used or threatened."

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