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Japan police to test video-sharing during emergency calls

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A smartphone screen displays a video-sharing system to be tested by police across Japan

Prefectural police across the nation will test a new system from Oct. 1 that allows emergency callers to share a video of the scene via their mobile device when reporting an incident.

Expected to be officially launched in April next year, this system will help the police to ascertain the situation and identify people who are present.

Under the system, the communication and command center of a prefectural police department will send emergency callers a link to a dedicated website using short message services (SMS) to share a video when necessary, according to the National Police Agency. The callers will agree to such conditions as paying the communication charges involved.

When the emergency caller accesses the link via their digital device, such as a smartphone or tablet, and enters a four-digit code the dispatcher has given them over the phone, the caller and dispatcher will be able to speak to each other through video and share footage. Speakerphone can also be used while watching the video.

Footage will be also shared with police officers heading to the scene. The system is expected to help police understand situations that are difficult to explain in words, such as multiple accidents or fights between multiple people.

Police in Hyogo Prefecture implemented this kind of system in October 2020 and had used it in 495 cases as of this July. Its effectiveness has been demonstrated in a number of cases, such as when video helped identify a vehicle in which a suspect in an assault case was fleeing.

The number of 110 emergency calls exceeds 8 million nationwide, and video is not expected to be used in a significant portion of those calls. There are some challenges to implementation, including preventing trouble when people take videos and their actions are wrongly interpreted as filming just from curiosity.

“We want to promote [the system] and actively utilize it,” a senior NPA officer said.