Fighting crime with cell phones may initially sound a bit unusual. But as the world becomes more tech-savvy, law enforcement is jumping on the mobile device bandwagon by advancing its technology to track down criminals faster and more efficiently.
To that end, one agency in particular -- the San Jose Police Department (SJPD) -- is offering to the public the CityConnect smartphone application, which combines all of the department's social media links and online information resources in one place. Although CityConnect, by PublicEngines, is the latest information tool, the SJPD already features CrimeReports crime maps on its website and has the TipSubmit mobile app for citizens to use to send anonymous crime tips.
More than 2,000 agencies nationwide use CrimeReports, which alerts cities of area crimes, and is updated every 24 hours -- it's a one stop shop for law enforcement and the public to communicate together.
According to SJPD Webmaster Dave Bartholomew, CrimeReports is one of the most popular destinations on its department website -- and CityConnect will provide useful integration, making the CrimeReport maps easily accessible.
“It places those same calls-for-service maps in the palm of the users’ hand, together with our contact information and various social media channels and crime reporting forms,” Bartholomew said.
And because most people have mobile phones on them at all times, residents no longer need to wait until they're home to get information or file a report -- and non-emergency tips and information can be sent out instantly. (But it's important to note that the online tools are not for reporting emergencies or crimes in-progress.)
The new app will allow users to sign up for customized alerts telling people when incidents occur in certain neighborhoods, and is seen as a win-win for both citizens and law enforcement.
“With recent budget challenges and manpower shortages, we now have fewer officers on the street than we did several years ago," Bartholomew said. "Using technology effectively is essential to leveraging new efficiencies."
PublicEngines CEO William Kilmer notes that San Jose is a fairly social media-savvy city, "And the more access to information," he said, "the more efficient law enforcement will be to solve crime."
Other benefits of the CityConnect app -- available for download now via iTunes and next week via Google Play -- include the ability for SJPD to promote three Division "Captain's Corner" blogs that periodically publish targeted news about the latest events and crime trends in neighborhoods.
Existing press releases, police blotters and a feature called "Community Compliments" are also integrated automatically with Facebook and Twitter, so CityConnect will wrap all items together.
The product is paid for with a yearly subscription, which includes app maintenance. Though the specific pricing is unavailable, Kilmer says since San Jose is a long-trusted partner of the company that has worked with him for years, it received a preferred partner deal.
“Our Crime Prevention Specialists are excited to be able to showcase the new CityConnect app at community meetings around town," Bartholomew said. "And as they do, we expect our tech-savvy residents will welcome the ease and simplicity of the new application."
Kimberly is a California-based writer who earned her Bachelors of Arts in Journalism from Humboldt State University, and has hundreds of articles published throughout the country on such subjects as health, science, education, entertainment, business and politics.