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New app doesn't click for Baltimore County police

Safety of CitizensNetworkingTelecommunication Service

The Carroll County Sheriff's Office recently became the first law enforcement agency in Maryland to utilize smart phone technology to communicate with their constituents.

The Baltimore County Police Department has no plans to use the free app, because its current social media provides a fast and easy source of information for county residents.

"Most, if not all, of the services it provides, we've already addressed through other means," said police spokeswoman Elise Armacost.

"Our approach has basically been to work through our website and social media to provide informational services to constituents," she said.

During the last week of May, the Carroll County Sheriff's Office released a free smart phone application called MobilePatrol, developed by Appriss, that allows users to access most wanted lists, outstanding warrants and agency directories.

According to the company's website, Appriss "provides technology solutions to help agencies keep communities safe and informed."

The app also works as an arm of the Victim Information Notification Everyday program, also developed by Appriss, which allows victims of crimes to track their offender's status through the correctional system.

"The app is really a tool to reach out to the community using one of the widely used technologies today, smartphones," said Carroll County Information Technology Specialist Barbara Schmidt.

Armacost said mobile technology is developing at a rapid rate, making it difficult for IT specialists to keep up the demand for upgrades.

Therefore, Baltimore County agencies will stick with what they know for now.

"Just because technology is out there, doesn't mean there's a demand for it," Armacost said.

Rob Stradling, chief information officer for Baltimore County government, echoed this concern.

"They come and they go and we roll them out," Stradling said of mobile applications. "We really, basically would like to have something that's going to be around for a while.

"We actually looked at a couple other ones out there," he said. "Some of them are designed for smaller groups, and we actually have a very robust social media display that we've put out so we've chosen to go down that path. That doesn't mean in the future we won't look at it."

In the meantime, Armacost said, police will continue to add to its social media presence.

"We feel that we're constantly looking at what new services people want," she said, "but right now, our social media platforms are growing every day in terms of our likes and our friends.

"We find that Twitter is an extremely effective way to communicate breaking news, both to the media community and to the public, and that, right now, is working quite well.

"Here in the police, we're not currently investigating mobile apps, but that's not to say that we would not investigate them if one of our units said, 'I found this app and I think it might be helpful'," she said.

Schmidt said on June 4 that more than 605 people in Carroll County have downloaded the app since it went live May 24.

Representatives from the sheriff's office can send crime alerts to community members via the app and, in turn, residents can report any crime or suspicious activity.

"If we had reason to send important information to the public...maybe a road closure of something that would impact the community from a law enforcement perspective, we have a push alert notification," Schmidt said.

"It allows our office to share critical public safety information with the community and with residents," she said. "It improves public safety."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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