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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 17:49 GMT
'Virtual' police station on line
Using the virtual police station in Mumbles
Other police forces are looking at the trial in south Wales
The UK's first 'virtual' police station is up and running, giving residents face-to-face access to a police officer 24 hours a day.

The video link connects a kiosk in the foyer at Mumbles police station to the control room five miles away in Swansea.

People can speak to - and see - police even when the station is unmanned.

South Wales Police said the pilot was an additional resource and would not replace officers in the seaside resort.

As well as reporting crime, the kiosk also allows people to give details of lost property or pets, e-mail their community officer, check appeal information and retrieve useful numbers.

The intra-web cam is being trialled over the next few months.

Chief Superintendent Mel Jehu said: "If the pilot is successful, similar kiosks will be placed at other stations in the force area."

He said the same number of police officers would still be on duty in Mumbles.

"This is a supporting police resource...an additional resource," he said.

"Mumbles is perfect because in the Summer it's a tourist venue, the station is easily accessible to everyone and it's an ideal place, which a large group of residents and visitors can use."

Police officer on screen in Swansea
Supt Mark Mathias - in vision - answers the call five miles away

Police work from Mumbles 24 hours a day, but the station is not manned for all that time.

But the kiosk will also be monitored by CCTV, enabling police to respond in person if needed.

Mr Jehu said it was simple to use and people can be connected "within seconds".

'Cutting edge'

"Anyone who can use a computer will find they can easily use this."

Providers BT said it was the first time they had combined audio and visual links for use in a police station.

Garry Clark, from BT, said they were constantly developing the technology for use by the emergency services across the UK.

Other police forces were watching the experiment over the next few months carefully.

Chief Constable Barbara Wilding added: "I fully recognise that many people find it difficult to attend a police station during office hours and find it inconvenient to travel to one of our larger stations."

"The initiative is part of a programme which will change that and enable the public to access a wider range of services through this cutting edge technology."

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