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Kochi police lets you report traffic violations via WhatsApp, but this strategy could backfire

If you’re in Kochi and witness a traffic violation, you can report the incident to the police by sending a message or the picture of the offending vehicle via WhatsApp, reports The Hindu.

The police control room in Kochi will receive all WhatsApp messages sent to 7559899100 and will then direct the nearest police officers through the radio. The cops have asked everyone to send the place and time of occurrence while sending complaints and have assured that the identity of the informant would be kept confidential.

The service was launched this Friday and will be limited to traffic violations for now. In the past, the city police have requested people to report violations via Facebook. WhatsApp currently has around 40-45 million users in India and most telcos have started offering special data packages for WhatsApp users. Police in Indian cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi have been using social media to make it easier for people to report crime. Use of WhatsApp definitely falls under this trend.

Possible challenges: While the idea is great, it is not clear how the cops will pull it off since WhatsApp does not have a desktop app or a convenient way to assign tasks. Imagine 50 people reporting traffic violations at the same time to this number. One person will have to play catch up and take down details of each of these violations. A stark difference, as opposed to a regular police hotline which is manned by a team and not an individual. Time is of essence in a lot of traffic violations and those lost minutes could mean the difference between life and death. This means, this strategy could backfire really badly.

It is not clear if WhatsApp is working on a solution that would help cops and small businesses to deal with such services. In an interview with Medianama, WhatsApp Business Head Neeraj Arora had said that the company is happy doing anything that adds to the utility of WhatsApp, (which this service definitely is), but it has not yet figured out how to open up the service to third-parties without the risk of spam.

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This leaves the door open for a third-party to create a CRM solution that is able to integrate WhatsApp messages in some way since WhatsApp is evidently popular in India and usage seems to be only increasing by the day. Several small businesses in India are using the service to communicate with their clients and now even government agencies like police are preferring it. The question is how will they solve the issue of spam and how soon they can build such a service.

Update: It is has been pointed out that WhatsApp does not have any APIs as of now to let third-parties create such a service. There are several unofficial methods used by hackers to pull these messages, but no CRM company will use these methods as they would be illegal.

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