Mobile PD Offers Transparency at Your Fingertips

February 20, 2017 by

MobilePD – not to be confused with the Mobile (Alabama) Police Department – is an innovative app that is allowing increased public engagement with law enforcement, while trying to reduce crime.

The 7-year-old company was created around the idea that technology can increase transparency between law enforcement and local communities. “Our belief is that true public safety only exists when there is a strong partnership between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.”

Santa Cruz Police Department was the first in North America to work with locals toward getting the community engagement app for their residents. Following that, MobilePD was able to further incubate the app within the San Francisco Police Department. There they were given unlimited access to data and a firsthand perspective of policing so they could fine tune the app.

In 2014, the company moved from Sunnyvale, CA to Austin, TX where they have continued to grow.

MobilePD offers two different tools depending on department needs:

This first option is MobilePD Connect, which offers alerts, tips, and two-way chat. This version, typically used by smaller police departments, is aimed more towards keeping residents informed on public safety issues.

The second option is MobilePD Engage, a customized mobile app specifically developed for each agency or department. Along with the base features of alerts, tips, and chat, Engage offers access to: crime mapping, crime stoppers, photos/videos, news, blogs and much more. Because of the complexity of the app, larger agencies or departments usually pursue this option.

The programs, which are available on Android and IPhone at no cost to the community, can be activated in as little as a few hours for MobilePD Connect, or up to 90 days for MobilePD Engage.

Most recently, Baltimore Police Department signed on with the full app version. After seeing a 174% increase in engagement one year after the creation of an anonymous text-to-tip line, BPD thought the app could further that success.

Now Baltimore residents can submit crime tips, dialogue with an officer, receive alerts, and access department data. Residents can view the social media pages of the department, court records, city crime data, and, obviously, the department’s main website.

Constant monitoring of what is coming through the app will allow BPD to respond accordingly, and they have said they will place a priority on homicide or shooting related tips.

According to BPD, $10,000 was paid to develop the app and $20,000 appropriated for a two-year subscription to the software. Considering the costs of other law enforcement technology, and the costs of crime, this doesn’t amount to much if it proves to be as successful in Baltimore as it has been elsewhere.

While BPD may be the newest, and largest, department using the app, MobilePD says versions of it are being used in Austin, St. Louis, and Toronto.

We’re living in a world where technology becomes more integrated in our lives with each passing day. If apps like MobilePD can encourage dialogue between community and police while acting as an platform for information and crime reporting, more major city police departments should consider looking into the software to enhance their policing efforts.


About the Author

Charles operates the Houston office for Empower Texans/Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.