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'Huge benefits' to phone camera link technology says force

The force launched the GoodSAM Instant Help platform in March which Chief Inspector Claire Jesson has said was “worth its weight in gold”.

Part of Cheshire’s SWAN [Safety for Women at Night] funding was used to integrate the GoodSAM Instant Help platform into the control centre in order to help with various incidents including domestic abuse and missing persons.

The technology allows the control centre to access the caller’s phone camera and exact location once the caller has accepted the request to do so. It enables call handlers to assess the scene better, equips response officers with more information and captures footage which can be used as evidence.

A few months into the initiative Cheshire’s SWAN lead Chief Insp Claire Jesson is hugely positive about its benefits but says that public perception of policing and phones needs to improve.  

“It's obviously a fantastic piece of kit. We’ve now got everyone trained. We've been doing loads of work around getting it to ‘business as normal’, so when people are ringing looking at every opportunity to use the GoodSAM app.

“When we purchased it, we originally thought that our use would be more for around the video evidence for domestic type offences, crimes in action at that time, but actually the uses have been far wider.

“It's been really effective with the location services, because it gives that pinpoint accuracy on where someone is, so missing from homes, for example, we send them a text [asking for permission to access their location].”

Other forces, including West Yorkshire and Bedfordshire, are using the same app for different purposes. Cheshire are currently trialling its use within CSI which would allow an examiner to have a video call with the homeowner to do a scene assessment before driving to the location.

The force has not yet had a case where they’ve used the footage evidentially, but Chief Insp Jesson said she didn’t envisage any issues and the force has an agreement with the CPS on how long the media is stored for and data protection guidelines.

Chief Insp Jesson said public perception of policing and victim's phones is "a real issue" but the app was a mutually beneficial transaction. "Only yesterday, there was the Information Commissioner's report on the mobile phones of suspects and victims," she told Police Oracle. “We are not analysing and examining people's data, GoodSAM is a simple application that just gives us access to your immediate location there and then, or it gives access to immediate video footage.

“There are public confidence issues around police and mobile phones. So we just have to be really careful with our comms, to make sure that you know this is a lifeline that is going to assist you and assist us. It doesn't mean we're getting access to all your data.”

Within the three months the force has been using the technology, Chief Insp Jesson said that 50 per cent of people in need of police help had authorised use of the app. She gave the example of missing persons who didn’t want to be found necessarily, however she said the 50-50 rate was around the same for those on a call to the control room who are asking for help.

“It's very much dependent on the circumstances - we will go back every day and look at our success rates, what kind of jobs we used it for.

“We can never rely on, as cops, word of mouth. I see it as our job to get out there and sell these stories [where the technology has really helped].”

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