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Mobile Field Reporting Comes to San Francisco Police

New class of cadets to pilot an app that aims to increase community presence by 40 percent.

A new pilot program announced by San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee this week will equip the Police Department’s (SFPD) newest class of cadets with an advanced mobile reporting application that will make a significant contribution to their on-the-go productivity.

When cadets are ready to hit the streets in six months, they will already be trained on how to use Web-based tools that enable reporting on the go. At that time, San Francisco-based ArcTouch expects to have its mobile app tested and ready for field use.

ArcTouch Founder and COO Adam Fingerman explained in an interview with Government Technology that like the Web-based platform, the app will connect to San Francisco’s crime data warehouse that’s now in use in all precincts to help prevent and solve crime in the city. But the mobile app will leverage new mobile technologies to add key functionality that will enhance reporting efficiencies, allow real-time data sharing and keep officers on the beat.

“The way we're going to do that [keep officers on the streets longer] is through a variety of mobile technologies that really simplify information capture,” Fingerman said.

With app projects for many high-profile clients like Walmart, Adidas and Cisco under its belt, ArcTouch is integrating sophisticated speech to text technology into the SFPD’s app, which will save as much as 90 percent of the time it normally takes for officers to transcribe audio incident notes. GPS tagging capabilities and integrated maps ease location reporting, and image and video capture options can be quickly linked to incident files in real time.

At a time when the force is down 200 full-time officer positions, any effort devoted to keeping law enforcement officers visible in the community rather than doing paperwork back at the precinct is welcome.

“I am grateful and pleased at the efforts of private companies to invest in the safety of San Francisco,” said San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr in a statement. “Using this new technology will keep more officers out on the streets.”

The development of the mobile app is made possible by a partnership between the city and the San Francisco Citizens Initiative for Technology and Innovation, a group of nearly 300 area technology companies that collaborate on civic projects using technology, while promoting the growth of the local tech sector.

The initiative is contributing $100,000 to the project, some of which will help recoup part of ArcTouch’s costs in developing the mobile application. Hewlett-Packard contributed the hardware. SFPD cadets are now outfitted with 60 Ultrabook laptops to complete their training and eventually access the mobile app. According to the mayor’s announcement, the move to the laptops advances the city’s goal to move away from stationary desktops altogether.

“A lot of our employees live and work in San Francisco, and anything we can do to help the city, we really enjoy,” Fingerman concluded. “It's exciting to use technology to solve real-world problems.”