Whether they like it or not, Philadelphia police are going full-on cyber. Just last week, Police Commissioner Ramsey announced that Joe Murray, the department’s first on-the-beat tweeter, will “train” 15 officers to use Twitter a part of a plan to cultivate increased communication and trust between the public and local authorities.
This week, the PPD has rolled out another new online component: a mobile app to streamline citizen’s complaints of criminal activity.
iWatchPhiladelphia is a free app for iPhone and Android developed by the Dallas company ithinkqware. Currently, similar versions of the app are being used in Dallas, Bridgeport and Duluth among other U.S. cities.
It’s touted as “neighborhood watch technology,” and it’s primary function is to allow citizens to conveniently submit tips, photos and video of suspicious activity through text, email or phone. Officials hope that the added convenience, along with the option to remain anonymous, will prompt more locals to report criminal activity.
The app also offers a map and database of past crimes, criminal activity reports by zip code, text alerts, missing children reports and sex offender information. Founder of the app, Dan Elliot, says, “We’ve taken the concept of social media and coupled it to the investigative task force concept of law enforcement.”
The PPD’s jump into the app world seems to be part of a greater initiative in Philadelphia that’s aiming to broaden communication between city officials and the public. Right now, City Hall is preparing to release a 311, non-emergency mobile app for neighborhood complaints and 6th District Bobby Henon, who already released a “Bad Neighbor Map,” also plans to launch a similar app even before City Hall.