Peabody police offer new phone app
Meant to improve public outreach
PEABODY - A smartphone application developed by a Peabody police detective meant to improve communication between police and the community was released this week for the iPhone and Android markets.
“It’s an extraordinary innovation,’’ said Peabody Police Chief Robert L. Champagne. “We see this as a very valuable tool to connect with the public we are trying to reach.’’
The app is free and includes features for police news updates, social media postings, finding accident reports, directions, department directory information, feedback and questions, department surveys, submitting crime tips, and other options. In addition, users can submit photos of problems such as a crime being committed, graffiti that needs cleaning, or a broken traffic light.
The app also has GPS capabilities, and users can attach coordinates to a photo, tip, or complaint, police said.
Champagne said smartphones have become ubiquitous, especially with younger people, and he believes this app will give many in the community a better way to interact with the police.
“If our job is to reach out to the public and help them, this is a vehicle that will help us do it,’’ Champagne said. “And it doesn’t cost anything.’’
Peabody detective Peter Olson, who invented the app, said he first became interested in the idea of a police app last year, but when he started to look around for possible developers, he found that outsourcing the project would cost the department between $20,000 and $40,000.
“Obviously, for a city like Peabody to spend that much for a phone app would be a bit much,’’ Olson said. “But I said I want this for my city, and I think other cities would also want something like this.’’
With the advice of small-business-owning friends, Olson founded his own startup company, Wired Blue, and developed the app himself. The response has been somewhat unexpected.
“It’s been a little overwhelming,’’ Olson said. “I’ve gotten calls from all over the country - from Canada, Australia, and some departments in the UK’’
Olson said so far, 30 police departments have signed up since the app’s release, and well over 100 more have expressed interest. Olson donated the app to the Peabody police for free, and other departments can purchase it at an average cost of about $650 per year, depending on the size of the department.
“I wanted this to be affordable for everybody,’’ Olson said.
Olson said he designed the app to be flexible so police departments could mold it to their particular needs, and he hopes to keep improving on the model.
“I’m pretty excited about it,’’ Olson said. “I hope to keep adding to it.’’
The app is not designed for emergency use, Olson said. Those with emergencies should call 911.
Stewart Bishop can be reached at email@example.com.