back to article Use Skype if you want to report a crime, say cops

Police in Peterborough, UK, are asking Brits to report crimes via Skype chats. Officers in the east-of-England city, population 185,000, will grapple with Microsoft's video-chat software in lieu of face-to-face visits. Meeting people in their homes takes up too much valuable police time, we're told. The 999 emergency line …

  1. gerdesj Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Oh good

    I need to contact the police, so what do I do?

    Emergency? Dial 999 or 112. Non emergency? Dial err 101 or 111 - can't remember which is which now and I install pbxs as part of my living 8)

    OR

    Reach for social media, but which app shall I use today? Will I remember or even care?

    *sigh* I remember having the local copshop's phone number on my mobile until only a few years ago. I could call someone who actually knew where the town I live in actually is, let alone follow directions in it. I'm sure the 1{0|1}1 number is more efficient overall but it seems a major step backwards in customer service.

    Oh well: #emerge -va net-im/skype

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh good

      "I need to contact the police, so what do I do?"

      Much simpler than that. Call 0118 999 881 999 119 725... 3.

    2. Graham Marsden
      Unhappy

      @gerdesj Re: Oh good

      If you call 111 you can listen to an NHS drone go through a checklist which probably results in them suggesting you go to hospital anyway "just to be on the safe side". It won't help with your solving crime, but, there again, probably neither will any of the other numbers.

      1. ZedThePirate

        Re: @gerdesj Oh good

        Not only that, my then pre-wife called 111 for advice during pregnancy. Which resulted in an ambulance being called out due to the answer she gave to one of the questions. Only by asking for the 111-ers supervisor was she able to cancel the ambulance advice.

        She was a trainee midwife at the time, so actually wanted to talk to someone who knew they were talking about rather than some script following drone.

    3. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Oh good

      That's not what it's for.

      And you can still do all the old things (hint: 999 for an crime in progress or emergency, everything else you have time to Google).

      But now, when they have to find a way to come see you, ask you about the guy you saw yesterday that might be linked to a bike theft earlier in the day, they don't have to spend forever trying to meet up with you to get your information and they can ask questions that you wouldn't think to provide the answer to (e.g. "Was this guy carrying anything?" when it links in with a shop theft that you knew nothing about etc.).

      Stop being a dick. This is just a way to ADD ANOTHER METHOD to call police that children, teenagers and adults are familiar with, that costs nothing (saving you tax money!), that provides a way for them to track you down even if you're at work without having to notify another police force to send a car to your workplace to ask you a couple of questions, that the younger generations are more familiar with than telephones, etc.

      And in an emergency, or a burglary, or anything else, you just ring 999 like you always used to. Otherwise you can look up what the proper number in and so not disturb the emergency lines.

      1. chris 17 Bronze badge

        Re: Oh good

        @ Lee D

        What's wrong with calling, leaving a Contact number and them calling back?

        They can call me just as quick as they can Skype me with the benefit of me not having to have data or a Skype capable machine. Also free to me if they call me, their data is not free so makes no difference to them.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh good

      "I need to contact the police, so what do I do?"

      Presumably search for "the pigs" on Skype!

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Surely Skpye's £19 a month is a crime. But I can't afford to use Skype now. Could I use Instagram to show details of the crime?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Surely Skpye's £19 a month is a crime.

      I reckon you've got a point there. Perhaps someone should Skype them and tell them to do themselves as an accessory.

  3. Graham Marsden
    WTF?

    "Have you been the victim of a crime...?

    ",,, Don't worry, we don't give a fuck!"

    Even though, in these days of Tory cuts and cutbacks (let's only investigate crimes at even numbered houses), it's pretty much a sham anyway, at least having someone come round to your house and take a statement gives the illusion that the Police give a damn and will actually try to do something about a crime you've been the victim of.

    Of course we all know what will inevitably follow, after they've cut the Legal Aid budget completely and privatised the Court System and made it cheaper for people to plead guilty rather than risk going to court and getting slapped with a mandatory charge, they'll sell off the Police to G4S and Serco and the like and we'll all be completely screwed!

    "YOU ARE UNDER ARREST. YOU HAVE TWENTY SECONDS TO COMPLY!"

    1. John Tserkezis

      Re: "Have you been the victim of a crime...?

      "YOU ARE UNDER ARREST. YOU HAVE TWENTY SECONDS TO COMPLY!"

      Er, no, I'm reporting the crime...

      "YOU HAVE FIFTEEN SECONDS TO COMPLY!"

    2. Rol Silver badge

      Re: "Have you been the victim of a crime...?

      Anyone remember the Quatermass series from the 70's and the Pay Police that operated in that bleak dystopian future?

      At least we haven't sunk to the depths where hippies are allowed to roam freely over ancient stone circles without being truncheoned into a coma.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: "Have you been the victim of a crime...?

        At least we haven't sunk to the depths where hippies are allowed to roam freely over ancient stone circles without being truncheoned into a coma.

        There a few variables here. That may simply be because we have a lack of hippies...

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: "Have you been the victim of a crime...?

          If the hippies were only a little more IT tolerant , they could use Skype to 'chat' about making an appointment for a good truncheoning from our busy overworked boys in blue.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: "Have you been the victim of a crime...?

        At least we haven't sunk to the depths where hippies are allowed to roam freely over ancient stone circles without being truncheoned into a coma.

        If I remember correctly, in the 1980 Quatermass the hippies weren't truncheoned into a coma. They were kettled by unmarked riot vans and shot off the stones with rubber bullets by the beetle-armoured uniformed thugs.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        the Pay Police that operated in that bleak dystopian future?

        http://www.clactonandfrintongazette.co.uk/news/13927127

    3. Bota

      Re: "Have you been the victim of a crime...?

      Graham, in the bleakness which is this article your comment made me laugh harder than I have in a long time.

      Good work. Have an up vote.

    4. BlartVersenwaldIII
      Alert

      Re: "Have you been the victim of a crime...?

      Don't fight it son. Confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardise your credit rating.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Have you been the victim of a crime...?

      The even-numbered house business was an experiment by the local constabulary to compare the difference between automatically sending a scene of crimes investigator to a burglary and waiting until after a police officer had attended and decided if a SoCO was required.

      Feel free to look up the BBC radio More or Less episode where this was explained. (Available as a podcast)

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Have you been the victim of a crime...?

      "Even though, in these days of Tory cuts and cutbacks"

      Lets not forget it was the previous Labour government that let the banks gamble, screwed the economy, and put the country in the massive deficit position that required these cuts...

  4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    I thought US flatfeet where pretty clueless but Skype? Not everyone has Skype or VoIP installed. Did the local flatfeet raid this side of the Pond for some genuinely clueless wonders?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @a_yank_lurker

      That's the whole idea. If you don't report an incident by Skype, they won't have record it in their pesky crime figures.

      1. Fink-Nottle
        Facepalm

        Re: @a_yank_lurker

        > pesky crime figures

        Talking of crime figures ... if anything was ever likely to cause me to go postal, it's the Scottish Borders police's insistence on using the phrase 'crime solvency rates'.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: @a_yank_lurker

          'crime solvency rates'.

          So crime does pay!

    2. Pookietoo

      Re: Not everyone has Skype

      That's not a problem, because they're only offering Skype as an alternative to a face-to-face interview.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Not everyone has Skype

        Face to face.

        So now they have your details and your face to put in the database.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Coat

      MS convinced them that since everyone how has a super hight-speed broadband connection and is upgrading to Win10, they also have Skype.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Holmes

      "Not everyone has Skype or VoIP installed"

      Especially after all equipment of value in the house has been sold down the pub.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    "Save time and money"

    Well, the Skype automagically and transparently streaming transcripts to NSA and SIS will absolve plod of any duty to file in triplicate. Hollowed out mountain bit-barns kindly provided gratis by US gov too. I can see how this could be a big time and money saver.

    1. s5PGmU
      Joke

      Re: "Save time and money"

      Orwell would be so proud!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Pint

        Re: "Save time and money"

        Orwell would be so proud!

        I rather fancy he'd be weeping into his beer

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Save time and money"

          A camera in every home.

          And so it begins.

          Exactly what he predicted.

  6. Tony S

    About 18 months ago, I witnessed an incident that I felt the police should know about. (Traffic violation, threatening behaviour, *possibly* linked to criminal activity)

    I tried 2 of my own mobiles to call 999 and 112. Then tried a couple of other people's devices, probably 3 networks in total. Each time, the call wouldn't go through. The phones worked fine as I made several calls to other numbers, but I just couldn't get through to the emergency number.

    In the end I posted a tweet. I had a response a few minutes later from some call centre droid asking if I had submitted the details via their website!

    But bizarrely, a local PCSO had also seen the tweet and contacted me, asking for details. The week later, he dropped by to meet me; and told me that they had used the info I provided on the vehicle to track the individuals who were then arrested for a couple of *related* offences.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Better late than never, I suppose.

    2. BongoJoe

      A few years ago I spotted something happening which I felt that plod should have known about and in the end I fired off an eMail as the event had happened so no point calling 999.

      Less then 30 seconds later I received a call from Special Branch which shook me up somewhat...

  7. Merlinski
    Unhappy

    Unfortunately, Skype have probably just lost thousands of customers by threatening them with a 1400% price increase, so the police probably won't be able to afford it any more.

    "Changes to your Skype Number subscription

    Hello Mr Merlinski

    We're writing to let you know about an upcoming change to the price of

    your Skype Number subscription. The new price for your Skype Number: +33123456789xxx will be 19.14 GBP every 1 month.

    This change will take effect on Sunday, November 29th, 2015 and the new price will apply when your Skype Number subscription automatically renews.

    You can update, change or cancel your Skype Number subscription by signing into your Skype account and going to your Skype Number settings page.

    Thank you

    Skype"

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It costs 15p for a 101 call, I fear this is the shape of things to come where in the future you will have to pay a fee for them just to turn up like a plumber. Which will mean a sharp intake of breath, can't get the parts till next week and that's plus vat Sir/Madame.

    1. John Arthur
      Happy

      @readinthereg

      "you will have to pay a fee for them just to NOT turn up like a plumber"

      TFTFY

  9. Jess

    And what about standard sip video phones?

    Will it be a sensible system that allows plod to make and receive calls to standard video conferencing systems and receive from web rtc. Or will it by Skype only?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Re: And what about standard sip video phones?

      You do realise you just used "plod" and "sensible" in the same sentence, don't you?

      What about making themselves available over SIP? Presumably the Home Office (or whatever they're calling it today) could find a server somewhere to sling Yate onto?

      100 quid on "Skype only"

    2. Mike Taylor

      Re: And what about standard sip video phones?

      I don't know about standards per se. However the cop on the radio said they have google+, whatsapp, messenger etc on their roadmap. The more ways to contact them the better

  10. Flatpackhamster

    I can hear it now...

    "Greetings and Salutations and welcome to the Peterborough Police Department. If you'd prefer an automated response, press 1 now."

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: I can hear it now...

      "If you know the funny handshake, press 2 for escalated Gold Subscription service."

      1. g e

        Re: I can hear it now...

        You mock, but the reality of internal IT support at a certain County Authority is 'Press 1 if you are an elected member otherwise please hold.'

        Meaning the Councillors, etc get to muck about not understanding what a computer is while the minions get no actual work done. Of course, perhaps if you press 1 you may be put through to the Bollinger hotline, I've never tried. Perhaps I should...

  11. A Ghost

    "If you want to hear these options again, press '3', followed by the 'hash' key, or you could just stop smoking so much dope you soap dodging hippy layabout".

  12. h4rm0ny

    PCO

    Haven't they already saved enough money by replacing most of the police with barely trained and half-the-price Police Community Support "officers"? They have to start using Skype now, as well?

    It's not that I am necessarily against doing things by video chat or over the phone. It's that I believe once a cheaper method is an option it will inevitably be pushed as the expectation a lá "if you want to speak to a human please work your way slowly through our lengthy number pressing sequence" was.

  13. Stuart

    So how exactly are you supposed to Skype them if the reason you need to Skype them is that all your tech devices have been stolen?

  14. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    'Officers in the east-of-England city, population 185,000, will grapple with Microsoft's video-chat software in lieu of face-to-face visits.

    Meeting people in their homes takes up too much valuable police time, we're told.

    ...

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

    Why not just get them to visit whilst they're patrolling the area. They are actually patrolling the area aren't they?

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      I honestly hate people like you.

      When I was a kid, I barely saw a policeman on the streets either. It was such an event that such things stuck in the mind. Things have not got worse. In fact, there are now more visible, audible and present police cars than ever before (sorry, does that mean you can't speed like a little child disobeying daddy's rules? ).

      I live in a London borough with over 1500 streets contained within 100 square miles. Within that there is a police station and five contact points and just under 400 officers (including PCSO's, part-timers, etc.) serving just under a quarter-of-a-million people. At least half of those will be dealing with prisoners, in court, on training, at events, doing paperwork etc.at any one time but that's 625 people per officer at best. Probably, what, 10 streets worth or so? Each officer is dealing with all the crime that happens within 10 streets. Doesn't sound like much? At current rates, and averaged over the borough including the high streets, the pubs, etc., they don't have time to walk around pointlessly as there's always something to respond to. Walking around pointlessly doesn't reduce crime figures either. It also means they are unavailable to the majority of calls that come their way because they can't get to them or some other officer has to drive out to get them.

      "Bobbies on the beat" were idle. They were doing literally nothing. The chances of them spotting a crime in progress are precisely zip. They were there because there was nothing to respond to but they were on-job, or to appease people's feeling of confidence. In case you miss it, they were always wearing day-glo yellow things and pointy helmets which doesn't stop crime but makes them easy to see coming - so anyone who wanted to, say, burgle would wait a few moments while they walked past and then do it anyway.

      Contrary to popular belief, they do not have the time to trawl CCTV either. They quite like me as I'm an IT guy who works for schools and whenever they'd needed something, I was able to spend the time to get stuff from CCTV for them because they simply do not have the time to watch, evaluate, track and export videos from different CCTV systems. And they get crap like parents calling in police to schools because one of the teachers refused to let their little darling enter a classroom threatening to beat the hell out of another student and the teacher had the gall to keep them out the classroom with minimal force.

      You want police on the beat? Stop having football matches. Stop whinging about speed cameras rather than "real officers". Pay your speeding fines or, better, stop speeding. Increase your council tax or lobby your local council to increase their portion of funds in a way not detrimental to other services.

      And then you will have paid for a ratio that allows them to be idle, say, 10% of the time and you can feel happy at seeing them walk past somewhere that 10 minutes earlier or later was/is burgled just the same anyway.

      The Italian side of my family also worry about us because they ALWAYS hear sirens in the background when we speak to them on the phone. In their rural location, seeing a policeman or ambulance is a once-a-year thing and every gathers to look on. In ours, they go past so often that we do not hear them any more, we tune them out. That sounds bad until you realise it's not gunshots, or violence, or robberies that you hear - it's the police responding at speed to them. And often enough that the Italians worry for us and panic every time they hear a siren in the background (even when we're walking through London, ffs!) responding to a call several miles away.

      Stop giving the police a bad rap. You want to know how bad they are? A neighbour of mine was worried because of a recent burglary in the area (that wasn't discovered until hours later when the owners got home). The police blanketed the area with advice leaflets to raise awareness. The neighbour pulled up outside his house at midnight and thought he saw our curtains twitch. He misremembered something about us going away, and instead pulled over to block our driveway, and called the police. So this is a very lax, suspect report of a possible burglary but also maybe just a cat on a windowsill (actually the latter).

      I have CCTV of it. Within 3 minutes, a police car is there (silent, obviously). They talk to the guy briefly. Check FOUR HOUSES, gardens, over the fence, looking for anything suspicious, and then ring my doorbell while officers cover the rear. Actually, we were in. They asked for ID, because - yes - I could have BEEN the burglar. They verified it all. They checked the area again.

      I'll be f***ed if that isn't the response you need. Three damn minutes based on a slight suspicion.

      P.S. I do not work for the police. I wouldn't want to. What a crappy, unappreciated job for pathetic money. And every time I've ever needed to call them, they come running. In the most serious case (the only 999 call I ever had to make) there were sirens approaching before I even hung up. In the other case, there were police at the door in moments of my neighbours reporting burglaries to check for suspects, gather evidence, etc. and another time police in the depths of Scotland responding to my calls from London, to go stand in the snow with a stranded car with my wife+child in until the recovery van decided to turn up (and they basically FORCED the RAC to respond immediately after we'd already waited over an hour for them).

      1. graeme leggett

        Beat officers do belong to a different time. Before mobile (panda car) officers when you needed coppers on the ground in the right locations so they could attend quickly.

        Before uptake in telephone connected burglar alarms and out-of-town industrial estates when the patrol would be checking the doors of commercial properties and workshops as they passed to see if they'd been left undone, or broken open.

        To a time when sticking your head out of an upstairs window and yelling "Police! Help!" might have been followed by a relay of whistles blowing in the city's streets.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Lee D

        Re: "I honestly hate people like you."

        Because you've got a different opinion than mine.

        Is that a hate crime? Quick, call the cops.

        Still, you got a lot off your chest in that rant. Shall we book another session soon?

  15. cortland

    Sorry!

    That's an export of personal data.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh whoop-de-doo

    Gov UK forces MS shite on their subjects once more. So much for open government, so much for freedom.

  17. RISC OS

    hmm...

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

    Well, assuming that they are not using Skype

  18. Cwrw

    Typical Skype call. ...

    OK I can hear you but not see you ...

    Yes, just restart Skype ..

    Wait a minute while it's updating something

    Yes I can see you but no audio ( by this time using email)

    .....

    Sounds left of assorted bludgeoning and mayhem ....

  19. Valeyard

    Tech Support

    Why Skype? why just just say if it's not important enough to come in then to ring them? they'll be on the phone anyway if my gran wants to report someone

    "Ok I turned on the computer, now talk me through the rest.."

    then follows 2 hours of telling her how to register, how to request her email address password so she can gets the mail to confirm her new registration, how to install the client, 20 minutes while she pulls the pc out to get the light at it to put the microphone in...

    whereas "ok some teenagers kicked your pot plants over, i'm sure we'll definitely be on the lookout, honest" could've been done over the phone in a few seconds

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proof (if it were needed)

    That we get the justice we can afford.

    Thank god the less money the police have, the less the public gave a shit about someone smoking the odd joint.

  21. Otto is a bear.
    FAIL

    Bless

    Isn't it great to see Cambridgeshire Constabulary embracing modern technology, and where they lead Herts and Beds will surely follow.

    A bold initiative of moving their costs on to victims and as ACPO like to term it, reducing the demand on the service by taking control of the public interface.

    Next step, only arrest people by appointment at force HQ?

    How many people do they think actually use Skype as compared to straight voice calls. Come to think of it, how many police forces actually use their internal video call and conference facilities?

  22. Martijn Otto

    Requiring closed-source, buggy applications in order to report a crime

    Wow, just wow!

  23. tiggity Silver badge

    Guarantee a face to face visit

    Want a face to face visit?

    Get creative - take some green paper, create and use some stencils of marijuana leaves to give lots of suspicious green leaves,

    Use these to make a suspect looking fake plant.

    Ensure said fake plant is visible in skype camera FOV (position as appropriate so that viewer can't tell its a fake!)

    Have skype chat with plod.

    Then expect an unannounced face to face visit some random time later.

    Alternatively replace green leaves with ISIS (or similar) propaganda if you want a faster, more weapon centric face to face visit.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Help Help I've been the victim of crime

    I paid the taxes but the Gubbermint has failed to provide the Police service!

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