UK
30/10/2015 05:48 GMT | Updated 30/10/2015 16:59 GMT

Police Tell Crime Victims, 'Skype Us', As Public Criticise Initiative As The Death Of Community Policing

In a story made for tabloid media, a police initiative asking crime victims to Skype them, has been labelled the death of "community policing" and a further hurdle for the elderly to report incidents.

The trial, launched by Cambridgeshire police in Peterborough on Wednesday, aims to provide more flexibility for victims and improve response times, the force said.

Home visits will now only be made "where necessary", but police say Skype video calls will enhance the service they provide the public by making officers readily available over seven days.

Predictably, the trial didn't escape the attention of the editors of Britain's two biggest red tops.

The move has been criticised by some as a "retrograde step", with former officers linking it to cuts to policing.

Skype, which launched in 2003, has 74,000,000 users, and worldwide a reported three billion minutes are spent on the service daily. In the UK 32% of 11-16-year-old's are said to use Skype every week.

Former officer Clive Chamberlain said the change is ushering in an era of "virtual policing" which he said was a "retrograde step".

Retired London officer Norman Brennan said "personal" crimes require a personal response.

He said: "Burglary Victims need an officer to attend their home it's a personal crime!

"Due to police cuts don't expect Police to attend contact police via online! Cuts have consequences."

Crime victim Richard Sandon, 53, who was seriously injured when he was punched to the ground from his mobility earlier this year, called the trial a "cop-out".

He told Mirror Online: “When you’re in that state you don’t want a phone call and you certainly don’t want to Skype .

He added: "You want an officer to show empathy. You can’t do that on Skype.

“It’s a cop-out because when you interview somebody you get a direct feel, particularly with body language."

Members of the public were largely against the trial on Twitter, however, one person pointed out that Skype allowed people to report crime with more anonymity and Hope not hate said the initiative could be an "extension not restriction of choice for victims"

Area commander for Peterborough, Superintendent Melanie Dales said they will provide an emergency response as required.

She said the Skype service would provide more flexibility with appointments available from 8am to 10pm seven days a week.

Dales said: "This initiative will bring the police more in line with other services, such as doctors' surgeries, and as with the health service our emergency response will be there when required.

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

"Also, by using modern technology such as Skype, we are increasing our efficiency and ensuring we are able to respond to people in a shorter time frame."

Last year the deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police Ian Hopkins, now chief constable, suggested crime could be reported using Skype or Facebook.