Victims of crime are being asked to speak to police on Skype instead of having officers visit their home, as part of a trial aiming to allow more time for neighbourhood patrols.
The move has been criticised by some as a "retrograde step", with former officers linking it to cuts to policing.
The new option will see people encouraged to call, Skype or visit the police station after reporting a crime, with home visits only being made "where necessary".
Former officer Clive Chamberlain said the change is ushering in an era of "virtual policing".
He wrote on Twitter: "This is such a retrograde step - but when budgets are slashed by millions 'virtual policing' is going to be the norm."
Retired London officer Norman Brennan said "personal" crimes require officers to visit a person's home.
He wrote: "Burglary Victims need an officer to attend their home it's a personal crime!"
He added: "Due to police cuts don't expect Police to attend contact police via online! Cutshaveconsequences."
The trial, launched by Cambridgeshire police in Peterborough on Wednesday, aims to provide more flexibility for victims, as well as allowing better response times, the force said.
Area commander for Peterborough, Superintendent Melanie Dales said they will provide an emergency response as required.
She said: "We understand people have busy lives and this service will provide flexibility, with appointments from 8am to 10pm seven days a week.
"This initiative will bring the police more in line with other services, such as doctors' surgeries, and as with the health service our emergency response will be there when required.
"It will allow officers, who use a large proportion of their time travelling across the city to and from appointments, more time to patrol their neighbourhoods.
"Also, by using modern technology such as Skype, we are increasing our efficiency and ensuring we are able to respond to people in a shorter time frame."
Last year the deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester Police Ian Hopkins, now chief constable, suggested crime could be reported using Skype or Facebook.