Dallas (Thursday, April 12, 2012)– The RTCC (Real Time Crime Center) of the Philadelphia Police Department today launched iWatchPhiladelphia, a mobile app and “Centralized Investigational Dashboard” (CID) software suite that lets any citizen to report suspected criminal activities, respond to police requests for information, or submit photos or videos anonymously from smartphones directly to the officers investigating a specific crime.
Traditionally, many metro police departments have been reluctant to issue public appeals for crime tips because tips hotlines tend to generate an overwhelming number of phone calls, most of them unrelated to the crime. Officers had to listen carefully to each call, write down the call’s content, and make a decision on which calls might have some relevance to the case – a process which was costly in terms of time and staff resources and could compromise investigational integrity.
But in light of current events, technology that uses crime tipping as an alternative to vigilante justice is a Policing breakthrough. The iWatch program makes the weapon an app, not a gun, while allowing Police to educate Neighborhood watch groups to send their tips and images, to not engage themselves in police matters.
Dallas TX citizens have been using the crime mapping and public notification/alerting portions of the product suite since December 2007 and became the first city with an iWatch App in October 2010.
Now the company reports customers across the U.S., with more each day.
Elliott notes that growth has been very positive: “Citizens are using iWatch through Sheriff’s offices, Police Departments, Private Security Firms, Transportation for Trucking , Rail & Air Security along with Universities, Middle Schools and High Schools.”
He continues, “Communities in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Illinois and Texas harness the observational powers of nearly 15 million citizen using iWatch. Almost every phone and nearly every carrier can support iWatch apps, enabling nearly any police department to monitor the city for criminal activity with our product.”
Rochelle Billal of the Guardian Civic League, in Philadelphia offered these remarks. “Say that you see a strange truck going slowly up and down the alley. You don’t know that the driver is up to something, so you don’t call 911 because it isn’t an emergency and you realize that the truck will be long gone by the time an officer can be dispatched. So, you snap a smartphone photo of the truck and its license plate, and go on about your business.
Later, you receive an e-mail or text message from the police saying that a house down the alley has been broken into. You can immediately respond by sending that smartphone photo directly to the officers investigating the incident in your neighborhood,”
Once the tip is received, location data can display the exact location and time of the photo and can be integrated with License Plate Recognition software to detect and investigate the vehicle.
iThinQware addressed this issue with an enterprise-grade management console that allows all tips to be linked to specific offense reports and summarized in an easy-to-read management report that includes video or still images (if available). This makes it simple to approve and publish information to target audiences inside and outside the police department, mark the tip for later follow-up, or discard it as irrelevant.
Founder Daniel Elliott explains. “ We’ve taken the concept of Social Media and coupled it to the investigative task force concept of law enforcement. We call it “ITAG”. Intelligent Tactical Alert Groups.
It’s a closed network only viewable by Police. But it instead of “liking” baseball or Justin Bieber, the groups are for Assault, Narcotics, Burglary and so on. The new system permits a quickly assessment of the value of a tip, and the investigating officer can get the information in seconds. It all translates to more solved crimes and a better protected community.”
Chief Michael Mears of Lynwood Illinois Police Department notes: “Until now, we just didn’t have the resources to manage hundreds of tips about a non-violent crime. Now we can manage any number of tips, and deliver the valuable information to investigating officers in just seconds.”
“This system allows a department to deploy a single officer who can make decisions and take action quickly, without tying up the resources that used to be required whenever tip hotlines were used,” says Billal.
Police across the country say it’s revolutionizing the way they fight crime and they say it’s working.
“In a city that has 143,000 people and 18 square miles, and 400 cops working 24 hours a day, this is the ultimate cop,” said Lt. David Daniels III of Bridgeport, CT Police Department. “When you want to submit a tip, you open up a menu and it will give you the ability to give a detailed tip and if you want to send pictures you can send pictures and video,” explained Lt. Daniels.
Once folks hit send, it goes straight to police. Residents remain anonymous, something police say makes people comfortable to come forward with information.
“People have this, ‘I’m not going to snitch’ mentality, which is really stupid, but this gives you the ability to report crime anonymously and you don’t have to worry about any of that,” said Lt. Daniels.
Dan Elliott, CEO of iThinQware says that he created iWatch in response to a request he’d recieved from Chief David Brown of Dallas. “We realized that the crime mapping and alerting function we had built into our initial product module was incomplete without a true two-way communications vehicle. So we added a content management function that gives the Department a complete tool that can control access to information and manage alerts through any medium (SMS text messages, RSS feeds, web video, email, or mobile display units in police cars). This is the first time that the Dallas Police Department could ask for and get public response during the critical early stages of an investigation.