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Winnipeg police testing new technology to virtually report break-ins

FaceTime your break-in: Police launched a pilot project this summer to allow break-and-enter victims to connect to a police officer through a video chat and file a report..

With the consent of a homeowner or business owner, the officer can assess the damage, catalogue stolen items and write the initial report.

The Virtual Police Response project is being tested with a pair of online video platforms, FaceTime and Google Duo.

Police then decide whether more police resources — forensic or investigative officers — are required.

The goal is to help police respond more quickly and efficiently to non-emergency break-and-enters.

“People were stuck waiting, sometimes for days, for us to come and take a very basic report,” Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth said. “This is an opportunity for us to speed up that process.”

If it’s successful, police say it should reduce the wait time for a response to these types of crimes and will get stolen property entered in to the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC)’s database more quickly.

Meanwhile, the police union has some apprehension about the new project.

Moe Sabourin, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, noted that improving response times is a positive thing, but is concerned with where it will lead and for victims’ perception of safety.

“It’s (break-and-enters) right now. What’s next? Is it going to be assaults? Can we take a picture of your injury over the phone?” Sabourin said. “Where does it end?”

— with files from Erik Pindera

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