Apps Produce A New Breed of Crime Fighters

Public safety apps help smart phone users close the door on criminals.

It has become a tradition every year around mid-spring and throughout the summer for movie goers to see their favorite comic book super-heroes stop the bad guys.

Now, a new breed of real-life crime stoppers is joining the fight with the help of innovative public safety software. Mobile technology entrepreneurs are developing apps that let cell phone users send anonymous crime tips to the police.

Several years ago Greg Whisenant unsuspectingly opened the door of his apartment building for a burglar, who then ripped off several of his neighbors. To make amends, Whisenant built CrimeReports.com, an information-sharing Web site for the local police.

Originally founded by Whisenant in 1999, CrimeReports.com was expanded to involve citizens in protecting their communities in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Now, it’s one of the fast-growing crime data-mapping services in the U.S., according to Reuters.com reporter Deborah Cohen, who wrote about crimereports.com, and Greg Whisenant.

CrimeReports works with Crime Stoppers Programs, thousands of law-enforcement and government agencies worldwide to help reduce, prevent and solve crime by enabling officials to easily open and manage a controlled dialog with citizens.

The company recently released TipSubmit, a free mobile app that allow tipsters to submit secure and anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers, law enforcement agencies or School Safety Officers and Administrators.

Thousands of communities, schools and government agencies are covered by this application since it connects directly with TipSoft, CrimeReports’ anonymous tip reporting system.

Greg Heuss also wants to empower citizens to stop criminals in their tracks by using iWitness, an iPhone application that not only quickly notifies 911 but records audio and video of the events taking place.

Heuss, a veteran of Amazon.com, PerfectMatch and EyeAlike, was recently appointed CEO of iWitness, a Seattle upstart. The iWitness iPhone app costs $30 per year, with the company planning to work on an Android version in the near future.

Heuss shared the idea behind iWitness with GeekWire.  “Any time the user feels endangered, the user simply touches the screen of their phone,” explains Heuss. “At that point, the phone begins capturing video and audio of the scene … a steady light is emitted from the phone, and the user’s GPS coordinates are recorded. If a ‘threat’ feels imminent, the user touches the screen again, triggering the following: 911 is called, an SMS/email notice is sent to six contacts previously authorized by the user, and a loud siren begins to sound.”

In Canada, Toronto Crime Stoppers recently launched a smart phone app that lets users anonymously report crimes to Toronto police at the touch of a button.

The app includes interactive features that enable Toronto-area residents to alert police in real-time about a crime or potential crime through photos, video, emails, text, and a button that autodials Crime Stoppers.

It will give police far more resources than traditional telephone tips to Crime Stoppers, said app developer Steve Nesbitt with Cellflare, a location-based service company with headquarters in Toronto, Ontario Canada.

“A video tip and a picture tip (are) worth a thousand words, versus somebody phoning in and briefly describing the situation they just saw,” Nesbitt told the Canadian Press.

The app also includes a database of some of Toronto’s wanted criminals, social media updates and a GPS locator to nearby police stations.

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