“There’s an app for that” was such a ubiquitous phrase that Apple commandeered it in 2009, by filing for a trademark, which is apropos because as the thinking went, if an app didn’t work on an iPhone it might as well not exist at all.
While not entirely true, as of June there were 2.2 million apps sold at Google Play for Android, and those for Apple’s App Store, added up to around 2 million, many of which most likely are being the same app, only in two versions. Whatever the number, more than 1.5 billion have been downloaded from Apples App Store since it opened in 2008.
One little app that came out a few years ago that isn’t glamorous or sexy, but does provide a valuable, and perhaps lifesaving, functionality, is the MyPD Police App, found at www.mypdapp.com. MyPD was the first full-featured app available to all police, according to WiredBlue LCC. It allows police departments to share a resource, yet control their own information, while providing a fiscally responsible way to obtain the latest technology and deliver communications options to the public.
Google search "MyPD" and countless postings from police departments throughout the country extol its benefits. One of those to recognize its potential early on was Hollister Chief of Police David Westrick. He said the department has been using the app for the past three years.
“I contacted the MyPD organizations in Cambridge, Mass. and had them do a few things just for us,” he said, and then demonstrated how the app works on his desktop computer. “Let’s just say there’s a problem with a car that’s parked in front of a house. In the dropdown list, push the parking thing. If I want to take a picture of the car, I can, and then say, ‘This car has been parked in front of my house for three days. Can you have somebody come out here and take a look at it and see what the deal is?'”
Residents can use the app to submit traffic and speeding complaints. Westrick said the app was used during the Fourth of July, and he showed that there was a tab for fireworks. According to a fire department press release, there were 110 tips on illegal fireworks using the app.
“The thing I noticed with the app it’s not great for immediate stuff,” he said. “It’s horrible.”
Westrick said instructions on the app state that it is not to be used to report incidents more appropriately called in to 911.
“It’s pretty cool because it does a lot of stuff,” he said. “For example, if you want to get ahold of the chief of police, there’s his email right there.”
If a resident wants to ask a specific question of code enforcement, traffic or parks staff, they’re all available on the app. Westrick said all department press releases are also available there. He pointed out if there was an issue involving drugs and gambling, for example, emails go directly to the task force commander, as well has to him, the captain and lieutenant.
“We’re all covered,” he said. “Everybody who needs to know is going to know. The task force person will send someone to look into that, and what will happen is they’ll come here or the sheriff’s department to get some historical data. You can’t just go arrest somebody because someone else submitted a tip. But if it’s a viable tip, of course we’re going to do something with it.”
He said whether it’s through MyPD or the department’s We Tip phone line, when a serious crime is reported the information goes to the detective bureau anonymously.
“We’ve been doing it that way for 47 years,” he said. “MyPD is just another technology, but we thought since everybody’s using smart phones this is something they could easily use. It’s been very helpful. There’s other things in it, like school stuff, bullying, gangs and graffiti.”
Westrick said the app for the Hollister PD is different than most other departments around the country because it is a smart phone app that has been customized for the HPD. He said Hollister was the second police department in the state to adapt the app for its use.
In the scheme of things and the value to the department, Westrick said it is the most cost-effective tool the department has.
“It costs us $800 a year,” he said. “It’s a good value for that. We get a ton of tips on it. The most tips we get are about parking or abandoned cars. Let’s say, for example we have a missing kid and someone sees that car and they’re scared to call 911. If they use it for that it’s worth it. We’re trying to meet the capacity in trying to serve the community as widely as possible.”
Westrick said that both English and Spanish speakers can use the app.
“We’re talking about any of those people who have some kind of barrier in getting ahold of us,” he said. “We want to open the barriers.”
The MyPD app can be downloaded at iTunes, mypdapp.com, and other online stores.