Are crime-fighting apps truly a boon for law enforcement?
Tuesday, December 04, 2018
Crime-fighting apps are the news of the day in law enforcement. We shouldn't be surprised by this, since every facet of our lives now seems to be app-driven.
It is interesting to note, however, that both the police and the public are investing in advanced apps to prevent crimes from happening around them. The question is: will these apps prevent crimes or will they create a new crowd of vigilantes?
The Citizen crime app in New York City is a popular example. It is designed to give a timely warning about crimes being committed in a neighborhood and encourage civic awareness.
Push notifications will alert app users whenever a crime is committed near them. The idea is to keep citizens safe and out of harm’s way. But some say that this could spell trouble for the police if some citizens decide to act on the warnings.
For people with a vigilante mentality, the temptation to play hero might be too much. The apps might even influence ambulance chasers and others who are obsessed with scanning police channels for nefarious reasons. The app drew a lot of criticism, which is why Apple removed the app from its online store.
Citizen.com, however, asserts that it intends to warn people about potential dangers and encourage vigilance, not vigilantism. But the very fact that they encourage users to take videos and pictures of crime scenes belies the advice for a more cautious approach, not to mention the fact that these individuals can severely hamper rescue efforts with their presence.
Apps like Nextdoor are being used by both police and the public in many states. The public uses it to share crime-related information while the police use it to give and listen to tips.
Most police departments agree that it is a help but also admit that, at times, overzealous citizens can be more of a hindrance than a help. Sometimes, reports of crimes turn out to be incorrect that misuse police time and resources.
While no one is sure whether we are better or worse off with these apps, some agree that these could help in community relations. It can act a great two-way tool for law enforcement to be more interactive and transparent with the communities they serve.
An Uber-like crime-fighting app was recently introduced in New Orleans. The smartphone crime reporting app is not new to the Big Easy, but now it is being introduced to more parishes, beyond the French Quarter.
App users can report crime directly to nearby, patrolling deputies or 911, and include photos or videos with their reports. The app also has an SOS or panic button for reporting emergencies like an active shooter or hostage situation.
New Orleans authorities believe that this futuristic app could save thousands of lives and prevent situations like the Parkland school shooting. A great feature is a digital pin that can alert the police to the exact location of the crime.
Fort Myers Police Department in Florida launched a similar app called the Tip411. It will allow Southwest Florida residents to submit tips and report non-emergency criminal activity while remaining anonymous.
It will not replace 911 calls, but the police believe that it will help them make the neighborhoods safer with the help of an engaged community. At this point, it is a win-win, but it remains to be seen whether these apps turn out to be the boon that their makers promise them to be.
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