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Quarter of police forces tell victims to collect evidence to cut down on face-to-face visits

Police forces across the country are to ask crime victims to collect their own evidence in an attempt to cut down on face-to-face visits, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Twelve forces, including the Metropolitan Police, have signed up to use a computer program allowing officers to text or email a website link to victims so they can upload videos, images or other relevant material.

Officers have been increasingly using the program during the pandemic to limit ‘exposure to members of the public’, according to Axon, the US firm behind the technology.

Axon’s UK manager Mike Ashby-Clarke, a former Met officer, told a policing conference discussion on the pandemic that the Covid crisis had forced a rethink over traditional methods of collecting evidence.

‘Officers driving to someone’s house, knocking on their door, interrogating the mobile phones or physical CCTV system, taking media and driving back to the police station, putting it in a physical bag – this is happening hundreds of thousands of times a day,’ he said.

Officers have been increasingly using the program during the pandemic to limit ‘exposure to members of the public’ (file image)

‘There is no need, the pandemic has pushed that technology out and has made a huge difference.’

The Mail on Sunday revealed in June that the Met had trialled the system. Scotland Yard estimates that Axon Citizen, which will cost the force £847,000 over the next two years, would save 27,000 staff days a year.

Processing a single piece of physical media can take up to three hours, the Yard said, but the new system takes only a few minutes.

It allows officers to focus on violent street crimes and domestic abuse.

But victims’ groups and charities for the elderly have warned the new system must not replace officers visiting vulnerable people reporting crimes who may need support.

Dame Esther Rantzen, who founded the charity The Silver Line for the elderly, said: ‘Unfortunately, older people are vulnerable to crime and do depend on the police, so you may be disenfranchising them because they are not comfortable with this.

‘A very high percentage of older people I meet don’t even own a computer, let alone feel comfortable uploading information evidence.’

Jeffrey DeMarco of Victim Support said: ‘Face-to-face contact with the police remains important to many victims who need help, advice and reassurance after experiencing crime. These victims must not be left behind.’

As well as the Met, West Midlands, Staffordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire and Cumbria are among the dozen forces that have signed up to use Axon from a total of 43 in England and Wales.