Police in Cambridgeshire are piloting a new scheme whereby the public are asked to use Skype to report crimes rather than in person. The controversial Skype scheme is being trialled as a cost-saving measure with the intention that police officers will spend less time travelling to incidents and devote more time to patrolling.
The video-calling service is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK and seeks to replace the current method where victims of a crime would call 101 and arrange an appointment with a police officer from home.
The initiative, which will offer online appointments from 8am to 10pm seven days a week, will look to make the running of Peterborough's police force more efficient and hopes to make it easier and more convenient for the public to make contact with the police as well as provide a quicker response time.
"There are a lot of people who don't have the time to come and see the police," said Shaun Ryan of Cambridgeshire Police Federation.
"The use of Skype might be preferable to some people whilst it will also reduce the amount of time officers spend travelling.
"Offering these options can provide advantages for both the public and the police," he added.
Police using Skype a good idea?
While the benefits can be seen from the police point-of-view the scheme has been less warmly received by some concerned that taking the strain off manpower will come at the expense of the victims.
The fact some may not be comfortable talking about being a victim of crime via a computer is understandable as is the fact some may not know how to operate Skype, or even own a device to operate it on. There is also the argument that Skype fails to provide the reassuring human element offered by visiting officers who can be more empathetic to victims.
Cambridge Police assured calls will be handled on a "case-by-case" basis and officers will still make home visits when required. The service will bring the police up-to-speed with the likes of the health service which is already using video links with patients to reduce the pressure on waiting rooms.