Police in Lancashire, a county in northwest England, has rolled out an Alexa skill to broadcast crime updates and safety notifications. In the near future, the skill may even be enabled to report crimes.
The application, which is used in an area of 1.5 million people, is the first of its kind in England. By the end of the year, the police plans to let users report crimes directly from their smart speakers.
“If we can reduce demand into our call centers 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,” Rob Flanagan, the innovations manager at Lancashire Constabulary, said in the College of Policing Conference.
Besides being used by civilians, the Alexa skill is planned to be used internally in the police department for briefing important information. For example, an officer can say “Alexa, give the warrant details for XXXX,” and the assistant will read the person’s warrant details.
The new approach seems to be very innovative, and reporting crimes via voice assistant rather than calling 911 does free up resources at the call center. Storage of sensitive data and privacy concerns, however, might prevent the implementation.
Making Alexa a police hotline means crime reports and citizen information will be stored in Amazon’s server. How the third-party company uses the information cannot be controlled by the police department. Meanwhile, it makes anonymous crime reporting more difficult.
Another concern is cybersecurity. Users can’t be certain if someone else is listening to their conversation with Alexa. Meanwhile, Amazon stores user’s voice recording for a certain period of time.
This is true with the U.S. too. However, a new regulation in the EU, which goes into effect in May, will empower citizens to have greater control over the data they share with corporations, regardless of where the data is located. This is likely to enable the Alexa application in the law enforcement. Currently, users cannot make emergency calls via Alexa.