Cities Fighting Crime With Smartphone Apps

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It may not top charts for the most popular app, but the Dallas police have launched their own software that residents can use to report crimes and tips to local law enforcement. Called iWatchDallas, the app is launching on most major smartphone platforms: iOS (s aapl), Android (s goog), BlackBerry (s rimm) and Symbian (s nok) devices. The software isn’t the first use of consumer technology in assisting the Dallas police force, as residents can also submit tips online, through text messages or even the old-fashioned way, by calling them in.

Received tips from all sources, including the new app, are funneled directly to a central intelligence-gathering unit called The Fusion Center, where all data is analyzed to determine further action on credible reports. Regardless of the method used to send information to the Dallas Fusion Center, all submissions are kept anonymous.

Although I live in Pennsylvania, I installed the free app on my iPod touch and found that it also leverages the camera on a handset; pictures of a crime in progress, a license plate or a location can be attached to submitted tips. And the software isn’t just a “fire and forget” type of solution. Resources that monitor incoming tips can reply back through text messages in the app, maintaining user anonymity through an assigned alias, so tipsters never have to provide a name.

Dallas police reinforce that the new software doesn’t take the place of 911 calls in case of emergency. Instead, the app is an easier way to get more eyes and ears on the streets to help prevent and solve crimes through personal technology. I’ll be curious to see future data on how many of these submissions from the app actually impacted crime and capture rates.

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