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Lancashire cops are priming Amazon Alexa to fight crime

BRITISH BOBBIES want to recruit Amazon’s Alexa in the fight against crime, by having the virtual assistant help people grass on local ne’er-do-wells.

We exaggerate for effect, of course, but an initiative by Lancashire Constabulary is reportedly experimenting with having Alexa provide daily updates on what’s going on in a user’s local area and have the smart speaker log crime reports.

The idea behind the initiative is to effectively allow people to file crime reports and give witness statements without clogging up 999 switchboards and taking up police officer time.

And there are plans for Alexa to be used by the police internally to provide them with rapid briefings on the crimes or activities of the day.

At least that’s according to the Daily Mail, which presumably after taking a break from left-wing baiting Brexit headlines and immigration scaremongering, went to listen to Rob Flanagan, the Lancashire police force’s innovation leader, speak at 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,” he said.

“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.”

Apparently, Flanagan came up with the mildly Orwellian idea when messing around with Alexa to get the virtual assistant to recite nursery rhymes to his daughter.

This is all well and good, but we can’t help but nurse the thought that this idea is a mash-up of The Bill and The Gadget Show, dreamed by someone who’s never watched an episode of Black Mirror.

Sure, the daily bulletins could be all nice and warm at first: “Minor car crash on Grove Road, worth avoiding” or “Watch out for those youth in hoodies partaking in a bit of the ol’ wacky baccy, they look well shifty”.

But the combination of tech monitoring and this government’s love of snooping could turn such an initiative into a dystopian nightmare: “We know you put that steak through as an apple on the self-service tills, you dirty little scab” and “OMG DON’T GO OUTSIDE, EVERYONE IS DANGEROUS AND THE NORTH KOREANS ARE COMING”.

That being said, it could all work out fine and help local police spend more time patrolling and giving confused tourists directions than filling out forms; but hey it’s a wet, grey January day so pardon our forlorn outlook. µ

Source : Inquirer

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