REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF) – It’s an “Only in Silicon Valley” story now, but probably not for long. The Redwood City police department is in the middle of a trial of live video chat to take service calls from residents.

Patrol cars still handle things that require a response in the field, but for all those calls where an officer just needs to talk to someone and give information or advice, video chat can save lots of time and money.

Officers who are already assigned to desk duty take turns on video chat desk shifts, so no patrol officers are being pulled from the street. The software they sit in front of is like Skype, but is actually proprietary software that is more suited to the specific task. It costs $200 per machine – a lot less than an additional patrol car or even a fresh-faced cadet.

So far, the trial has been getting good traffic, but not running near capacity. For most residents, it’s almost certainly a new and unknown idea. Callers personal identities are neither known nor recorded. This is believed to be the first trial of its kind by a U.S. police department.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)



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