SOUTH PORTLAND — There’s a new way to report non-emergency crime in the city.
Instead of navigating the Police Department’s phone directory – which “even on the best of days can be a confusing experience,” according to Sgt. Thomas Simonds – smartphone users can take advantage of an application launched last week.
The department joined 17 other police departments using My Police Department, or MyPD, an app that provides one more way for residents to connect with law enforcement. South Portland’s is the first department in Maine to use the app; Most others are in Massachusetts, although agencies in Alabama, Georgia, Wisconsin, California and Texas are also on board.
Simonds said the SPPD is in some ways an early adopters of both field and online technology. He said the department had a website in the late 1990s, even before the city did, and hopped on technology such as Tasers and thermal imaging cameras.
“We’ve looked at trends coming around the country and have been fortunate enough to bring those trends to Maine,” he said. “We looked at this app and said, ‘This is something that kind of wraps all the other (media outlets) all into one stop, and adds more.'”
The app was created by WiredBlue, a Massachusetts-based company founded by Peter Olson, a police detective in Peabody, Mass.
“Corporate America is using apps to provide their customers with better service and accessibility. Progressive police departments are adopting the MyPD app for the same reasons,” Olson said in a news release.
Available for free on the iPhone and Android operating systems, the app includes functions to leave a tip, commend an officer, and submit general questions or feedback. It also has links to the department’s website, and a contact list including phone numbers and extensions for several officers.
If they choose to, Simonds said the department could use MyPD to survey residents, allowing officers to get closer to the pulse of South Portland.
“There are these little extras that come with taking advantage of smartphones,” Simonds said. “For example, we have such a large student population that has just rolled back into the city. So many of them are on Android or iPhones, and this may be a better way to reach out to that segment of the community.”
When a user submits a tip using MyPD, an email with the information provided is sent to several officers and dispatchers, many of whom carry smartphones allowing them access to email while on patrol.
In an unannounced test, officers responded within 20 minutes to an inquiry made by a reporter.
While this may be the newest online venture for area police, it’s by no means the first.
South Portland launched its online crime reporting system last year. Like MyPD, online crime reporting is for non-emergency reports and reports for which there are no known suspects. Simonds said it’s been used for between 200 and 300 reports.
South Portland’s and Scarborough’s police departments are both on Facebook, and while South Portland does not use Twitter – Simonds said it’s something the department is looking into – Scarborough does, albeit rarely. The Cape Elizabeth Police Department has no social media presence, but there is a Facebook fan site.
A screen shot of the My Police Department smartphone application home page for the South Portland Police Department.