Lancashire Police Want to Use Amazon Echos to Report Crimes and Deliver Police Bulletins

By Tom Pritchard on at

I don't get smart speakers, or virtual assistants. Frankly I found them to be annoying and more of a hassle than unlocking my phone and looking things up for myself. But I seem to be in the minority, since people can't stop bringing virtual assistant speakers into their homes for one reason or another.

That's why Lancashire Police think it's a good idea to have Echos deliver crime bulletins to the civilian population, and give them the ability to report crimes.

The idea is that the Echo/Alexa will be able to read out important bits of information to people who ask, including number of officers on duty, number of offences, missing people, wanted suspects, and so on. That way the police force can free up resources by not having to answer as many calls from people wanting this information.

Speaking to the College of Policing conference Rob Flanagan, the force’s innovation lead, said:

“If we can reduce demand into our call centres via the use of voice recognition or voice-enabled technology and actually give the community the information they need without them needing to ring into police then that's massive.”

Chief Constable Andy Rhodes added:

“We think there is quite a lot of information people may prefer to get by asking Alexa/ For our staff, it's great for internal messaging, say there has been a serious incident like the attack on the Manchester Evening News Arena.”

The crime bulletins shouldn't be too much of an issue, seeing as how news and weather organisations (to name a few) have been offering something relatively similar for a while. Lancashire Police would just need to hire someone to develop the right skill and make sure it gets updated when necessary. As for the reporting crimes, that might be a bit tricky. If the goal is to reduce resources, it implies that people calling in won't be speaking to a human being - a human being with the judgement and skills necessary to determine the severity of the report.

Echos can make calls, but the reporting is going to need to be clearly thought out before it's implemented. Particularly if emergency calls are going to be a part of it. If you can't reach the phone, however, being able to use a voice-activated gizmo to call for help is a pretty good idea. There are privacy implications, however, seeing as how everything you say and do with an Echo ends up stored on Amazon's servers. That's not exactly ideal for police business, or anything else that handles sensitive information.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out, though, and it's good to see that the police are ready to adapt to modern technology rather than digging their heels and sticking to systems that might well be less useful. [Techspot]

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