A new mobile app under development by the department and MobilePD proposes to notify residents about suspects in their area in real time, and eventually offer live chat and crime-reporting features.
As the ubiquity of smartphones has put eyes and ears everywhere, more and more police departments have realized their potential for reporting crime and catching runaways. In North Carolina, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is preparing to release an app which will eventually combine several functions such as real-time geofenced alerts, crime data, tip sharing and two-way communication with officers.
Currently unnamed, the app is a collaboration between the department and Mobile PD, an Austin-based company founded in 2010 that makes two-way community engagement tools for law enforcement.
Sandy D’Elosua, a spokesperson for CMPD, said the first phase of the app is due in November, as a free download on Google Play or the Apple App Store, which will let public users “opt in” to receive notifications about suspect descriptions and active calls for service nearby. It will also include an option to monitor such calls about specific places whether the user is there or not, such as schools, workplaces or homes.
She said a second and third phase will roll out more functions in early 2020, including the sharing of interactive directories, maps and events; a live chat feature between citizens and officers; and the ability to share crime tips with photos and videos, with the option of anonymity.
D’Elosua said the department already has a website that maps the city’s crime reports, but with a 24-hour lag. The app, she said, will alert residents about some of those crimes in real time and with specific locations, so police can share suspect descriptions immediately.
“This is going to culminate in some fantastic abilities with the community to interact with police in a virtual capacity like never before,” she said. “The idea is to create an [app] that is a direct-to-resident communications vehicle.”
D’Elosua stressed the app is not intended for reporting crimes in progress — police still prefer people call 911 for that — but rather alerting residents after a crime has been committed, in cases where public awareness could help catch a suspect.
She hoped it would encourage public interaction with local law enforcement in the long run, remembering the adage, “if you see something, say something.”
“That’s the total goal,” she said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has suggested its app will be the first of its kind to combine all these features, but there are similar police apps out there — MobilePD has launched with law enforcement agencies around the country, such as in Palo Alto, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio.