APD introduces new app with instant messaging feature to communicate with officers

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A new app for the Austin Police Department now allows community members to interact with police and provide anonymous tips in non-emergency situations like theft, drug use and suspicious activity.

APD released their app, Austin Police Department Mobile, on Feb. 29. Lt. Douglas Rice in the Police Technology Unit said the app includes features such as two-way communication with officers, news updates and crime maps. The app is free and can be downloaded on the iOS App Store and Google Play Marketplace.

“[The app] just provides a lot more of our resources at their fingertips,” Rice said. “In today’s day and age, with everyone having a smart device, we’re just trying to make it easier for the community to stay in contact with us and provide the help that we need and also for us to be in contact with the community.”

Compared to APD’s previous app, which only allowed tip submissions, Rice said this app has a variety of features that can help the community and the police department continue to be mutually involved.

In addition to anonymity in tips, Rice said the app allows individuals to submit pictures and their location along with their report. When sending a tip, users can pick from one of 27 categories that describes what they are reporting through the “Submit a Tip” feature on the app.

Other features available on the app include a crime map which shows exact locations of criminal offenses, a directory with important phone numbers for various units in the department, police station locations and links to APD’s social media accounts.

While the app provides a way to directly contact officers, police chief Art Acevedo said it should not be used in emergency situations during a press conference about the app last Monday.

“Even though there is a link to call 911 on the app itself, this app is not designed to text in when an emergency exists and immediate police response is required,” Acevedo said during the press conference.

To implement this app, APD partnered with MobilePD, an Austin-based startup company, Rice said. Acevedo and MobilePD employees decided a specialized app would be beneficial to the Austin community, and app development took about a year.

With the arrival of the app, MobilePD CEO Kushyar Kasraie said the company looks forward to bringing the city of Austin a new platform to promote local safety, which they have already done in other cities by implementing similar apps.

“Over the years, our apps have helped find missing people, lift major drug busts and have greatly enhanced access to police resources, and we look forward to seeing that first hand in our own community,” Kasraie said during the press conference.

Jamieson Johnson, vice president of MobilePD, said the company is looking forward to evaluating the progress of the app during South By Southwest next week. According to MobilePD’s website, the company hopes to enhance safety at the festival by encouraging people to download the app and report suspicious activity if necessary.