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The U.K. Is Testing A Way Of Letting People Report Crimes Online

The pilot scheme could save police departments time and money.

The U.K. Is Testing A Way Of Letting People Report Crimes Online

In an age of social media, smartphone apps, and ubiquitous Internet access, relying on phone calls to report crimes is not only inefficient—it’s prohibitively expensive.

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With that in mind, the U.K.’s Home Secretary Theresa May has revealed that the country’s Home Office is working alongside two county police forces to trial a new way of allowing people to log non-urgent crime reports online. If successful, the plan would be to roll out the initiative nationwide.

“The growth in the Internet has transformed other services–from shopping to banking–and it is right to give victims and witnesses greater choice over how they report issues to the police,” May told a policing conference on Wednesday.

According to May, an online companion to the U.K.’s 999 emergency line (the equivalent of 911 in the U.S.) would save $5.6 million and 180,000 officer hours per year. People often call 999 for non-emergencies; the new program would offer another way of reporting less-urgent crimes, hopefully cutting down on the number of calls that are made to the emergency line.

The announcement hasn’t been embraced by everyone, however. Robin Fletcher, associate professor of criminology at Middlesex University, told the Financial Times that asking people to report crimes on a website would erect “artificial barriers” between the police and the public.

On a more practical note, the Healthcare.gov failure is a reminder of what can happen if software is not up to the crucial job that has been asked of it. Any crime-logging service would have to be well-implemented and given sufficient resources if it is to become a help rather than a burden to police and the general public.

Were it prove effective, however, there’s no reason a similar scheme couldn’t work in the U.S., where the most recent emergency line innovation has been to allow the public to send text messages to 911.

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