Lancashire Constabulary considers using Amazon’s popular voice assistant, Alexa, in a bid to improve efficiency and fight crime.
Users would be able to report crimes using the assistant on supported device, or have warnings about local issues spoken to them. For example, a spate of car thefts in the area could prompt an alert to neighbours to be more vigilant of people acting suspiciously around vehicles.
In the event of a developing situation, such as a suspect fleeing from a scene on foot, an alert could be sent to local homes asking them to be aware of anyone using their property as a hiding spot — such as a backyard. This could prevent, or reduce the time, a costly helicopter needs to be deployed to find a suspect.
For reporting crimes, the idea is to help prevent the switchboards for the 999 emergency line from being clogged up. Witness statements can be provided using Alexa while the emergency line will remain available for anyone who needs it.
Internally, Alexa devices could be used in the precinct to provide staff with daily briefings on request instead of having meetings.
Lancashire Constabulary’s innovation leader, Rob Flanagan, told a crowd attending the College of Policing conference:
“If we can give officers and leaders the information that is needed in the quickest time possible, in the easiest way, then I think we will see real efficiencies.
The next stage will be something we can do very quickly, I’m talking February or March, essentially once we have got the authority, is to set up a skill to provide information to the public on specific things such as a response to questions like ‘how do I report this?’ or ‘what do I do with this lost property?
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.”
While it could help to improve efficiency and reduce demand on the police service, until Alexa gains a body to physically apprehend suspects, it’s not going to be enough to reverse the damage made by police funding cuts.
David Champeaux, Director, Global Cognitive Health Solutions at IPsoft, comments:
“AI enabled virtual agents that can hold conversations with the public will make it much more convenient for individuals to exchange the information that will keep themselves and their communities safe.
With constant budget constraints in the public sector, rapidly evolving AI-enabled virtual agents will simultaneously address access and quality challenges in the system and open the door for a more efficient and effective service to citizens.
The good news for British tax-payers is that AI-enabled agents are set to speed up convenient, reliable access to routine support and information across public sector services and do so affordably.”
The idea of using virtual assistants in homes for public services will likely be met with some scepticism, especially with the heightened awareness of the UK government’s desire to conduct surveillance on everyone.
What are your thoughts on the use of virtual assistants by the police? Let us know in the comments.