The New Castle County Police Department's newest crime fighting tool rests right in the residents' hands.
On Tuesday morning, NCCPD officially unveiled their new app for smartphones and other devices in what officials say is an effort to improve communication with the department as a whole
County executive Tom Gordon congratulated the department's management team for being proactive in developing the app, adding that this kind of technology is the next step for future law enforcement efforts.
"This is a very important day," Gordon said. "I think this is going to allow a lot of community members – people that may not feel comfortable calling in information because of being … found out – (to report crimes) through this wonderful app."
Col. Elmer Setting said that, in a time of changing police tactics, officers are no longer able to directly confront witnesses when investigating a crime.
Setting cited a recent homicide in Brookside, where he said that despite hundreds of people being present, police cannot locate a single credible witness.
Once downloaded, Setting said the app basically turns the smartphone into a mobile police radio.
"Social media is how the young, and a great amount of our citizens, communicate with one another. And this is a multi-functional tool to allow us to invite the public, literally, to be deputized," Setting said.
The app provides users complete anonymity, Setting said, when reporting crimes.
When asked if police would still be able to track the tip provider through their cell phone's GPS, Setting said that that information is "washed out" by a component of the app.
"We're not going to make any attempt to know who they are, nor do we want to," Setting said. "We simply want the information to come in."
Lieutenant Rich Dunning, who was head of the app's development team, said that since it was first made live last month – and without any publicity – the app has already been downloaded several hundred times.
Its also fulfilled its purpose so far, Dunning said, by providing the tips officials hoped it would.
"I received four this weekend," Dunning said.
The app was developed by Massachusetts-based Wired Blue Technology, makers of the MyPD app, a similar blanket app also used by law enforcement agencies nationwide.
There are very few agencies, however, that use a direct access app specifically developed for their departments, Dunning said.
"Across the country, there's only a handful," he said. "This is brand-new technology, across the board."
The app is is currently available at the Google and Apple stores online.