NORFOLK, Va. - The Norfolk Police Department non-emergency call line is going virtual.
The department rolled out a new tool Friday called "NPD Live" to enhance the way officers respond to non-emergency calls. It’s one of the first virtual law enforcement programs in Hampton Roads.
“There’s nothing like speaking with a law enforcement officer,” said NPD Sgt. Will Pickering.
Now, when a person calls into dispatch to report a non-emergency situation such as vandalism or theft in the city, they’ll have the option to speak with an officer virtually.
The way NPD Live works is the dispatcher connects a caller to an officer by using Webex, a social networking platform. The officer then sends the person a link to video chat for help in filing an incident report, or with crime-related matters just as they would in person.
“There’s so much involved in communication that you lose over the phone,” said Pickering. “There’s expressions; there’s concerns. Being in law enforcement, when we’re interviewing people, we can see the concern and necessity to help that person that’s going through a potential crisis.”
In the middle of a pandemic, the program helps to protect officers and neighbors from COVID-19 exposure.
“There are certain constraints with COVID-19 and we’re all in this together, but one of the things we’re taking advantage of is technology,” Pickering said. “We truly believe NPD Live is going to be that connection with our community, so they can see we’re still there for them.”
NPD Live is free for the caller. They don’t need an account. All they need is an email address and a device like a computer with a camera, a tablet or a cellphone.
“You can still use some of the other features within the Webex platform, for example, a good opportunity is to use the chat function,” Pickering said.
With nearly 246,000 calls that came into the department in 2019, NPD PIO Noel Lipieko said the program may help cut down on the wait time that comes with in-person responses.
Officer Lipieko said all calls are private and secure.
“We understand when people call to report crimes, they are opening their lives to us,” she said. “They’re entrusting us with a lot of their personal information, and that will just be between the officer and citizen just like if they were to come to house.”
NPD Live is in use now and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.