by Kofi Akumanyi
Photography: Anna Purkiss
It's smaller than Doctor Who's police phonebox, but the Customer Service Terminal (CST) will help deal with crime and provide a range of other essential services to the public.
The equipment (pictured), which is linked to a £4 million computer; was developed by British Telecom, Olivetti (UK) and the London Metropolitan Police Department of Technology under the Advanced Transeuropean Telematics Application for Community Help (ATTACH) multimedia project, a European-funded consortium.
Launched in July in east London, the CST system consists of a terminal featuring a touchscreen, stereo speakers, printing unit and a telephone handset with multimedia application software which has been developed to meet police requirements - all specially designed for ease of use.
Using the touchscreen technology, people who are not familiar with computers will be able to use CST in public buildings to report incidents. There are interactive facilities for help and immediate feedback, as well as access to translation in foreign languages.
The system's video, audio and data interface allows users to browse information easily and, when required, connect to a central police station or a remote expert via an audio phone call or speak face-to-face with a police officer via an in-built videophone. Members of the public will be able to get counselling and local information services as required.
The equipment is expected to ease pressure on the police who are working within strict budgets without compromising the levels of service and protection they provide for the community.
The system, which is installed in the borough of Newham that has a high ethnic minority population, can also supply information in up to 10 languages, have access to police and local authority assistance, as well as information about council services. There are also plans to carry appeals for witnesses, information about missing persons and details of local anti-crime initiatives.
The potential for other related services are almost limitless. They include third-party information services such as Talking Pages, emergency services AA and RAC, ChildLine, Drugline and the Anti-Terrorist line. It will even allow motorists to produce driving documents through a digital image linked to the police station.