PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — You may have gotten used to doing Zoom video chats with family and friends, but what about law enforcement? The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is now giving you the option to report crime that way.
PBSO’s Alternate Response Unit takes crime reports online and now has expanded that to using zoom.
The idea came from Sheriff Ric Bradshaw himself, as a way to keep everyone safer during the COVID-19 pandemic. The process keeps the public from coming to the sheriff’s office, and deputies do not have to go into homes or harmful situations that may not be necessary.
Christine Cunningham, division manager for the Alternate Response Unit (ARU), says, “being able to take these paper calls online and over zoom really helps keep the deputies where they need to be. I think we’re keeping the deputies safe and out of harms way especially with the pandemic going on so the deputies are able to respond to a little more crime suppression and do more self initiated acts to keep the public safe.”
The ARU began taking zoom calls on June 15 and Cunningham says they have taken about 1300 so far. There are about 30 calls and reports they can take through zoom, including theft, a suspicious vehicle and traffic crash, with the most common ones being stolen cars and fraud.
The zoom call itself will be initiated by a PBSO ARU specialist. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you have a crime to report, you can call the PBSO communications center at 561-688-3400 to make a report and then request a zoom meeting, or go online to to begin filing your report, or send an email to AlternateResponseUnit@pbso.org with your contact information to request a zoom meeting.
Cunningham says, “it’s very difficult for us to be able to identify someone over the phone but being able to have video face to face we can verify information from somebody looking at their drivers license or registration or other information that shows us it’s their property.” She says all ARU specialists are notaries so they can take sworn statements over zoom.
While many types of crime can be reported this way, it is not for emergencies. If you are experiencing an emergency, you still need to call 911.
The sheriff’s office says it plans to continue using zoom beyond the pandemic. Cunningham says, “the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is always technologically advanced and I think we are kind of paving the way for law enforcement in the future.”