In a world where smartphones and tablets are increasingly at the forefront of communication, Ocean County law enforcement is looking to take advantage of that to help solve crimes.
County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said the next state-of-the-art technology to help police departments receive information about crime incorporates tip systems that are immediately accessible through an app for mobile devices.
In many communities, Crime Stoppers is used to report crime. The nonprofit organization offers cash rewards for tips leading to the arrest and indictment of those involved in crimes.
The Atlantic City Police Department, Cape May County Sheriff's Department and Vineland and Bridgeton police departments use the tip411 program, developed by St. Paul, Minn.-based Citizen Observer. It allows individuals to text information to police anonymously. When using the tip411 program, all identifying information is removed from text messages.
The tip411 program allows police to receive tips and issue citywide or targeted alerts, but unlike other anonymous tip programs, law enforcement can text in real time with tipsters, request photos and gather follow-up information.
Going a step further is the MyPD program. The program's app is compatible with iPhone and Android phones. It is free to mobile device users and of minimal cost to law-enforcement agencies, Coronato said.
"With this app, the public will be able to send information, photos, videos to us within 20 to 30 seconds. Our current website does not work well with smartphones and tablets. We needed an app to work with those devices," Coronato said.
Users download the app to any smartphone and are able to report to police a crime, drug activity and other information. The user can submit information anonymously or with their identification, according to the MyPD website.
"I think what is going to happen with this technology is that it is going to make it much easier for the public to cooperate with law enforcement," Coronato said. "If someone observes a drug deal going on at a local Wawa, they can send the information right to us."
The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office will partner with municipal police departments to use the technology and share information submitted from users, he said.
For years, the Stafford Township Police Department has used an anonymous tip line that includes a voicemail system, but the MyPD app appears to have promise, Capt. Thomas Dellane said.
The department will see the MyPD technology in action this week during a presentation, Dellane said.
"The technology today is demanding that we change the way we do things in law enforcement. The younger generation has been raised on electronic media, and by having an app like this on a phone allows them to take it out and send something immediately," Dellane said.
Barnegat Township Police Lt. Keith Germain said the department is using an online anonymous tip system that the public can access at its website.
Germain and Dellane said the majority of tips that come into the departments are related to drug activity.
"I think this technology will allow us to take advantage of a more comfortable platform for some of the younger, tech-savvy for people. This app would be beneficial anywhere you are able to gather inherently reliable information, such as a picture or video," Germain said.
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