Howard County police announced Monday that the department has launched a new smartphone app allowing residents to anonymously send crime tips by text, email, photo or video, according to a police news release.

Howard County police are the first jurisdiction in Maryland to install the technology, which is called iWatch.

“We think this tool will be invaluable,” Police Chief William McMahon said in a statement. “While it is certainly not intended to replace 911 in an emergency, it will be used like a tip line for citizens to provide crime information to police. Once users download the app, they can be the eyes and ears of their communities, with a direct and immediate link to law enforcement.”

The release stated that residents should still use 911 for crimes in progress, and that the app should be used for tips and general information about suspicious behavior.

Encrypted tips sent through the iWatch app are delivered to police anonymously, the release said. The only way a user can be identified is if they choose to provide their name to police.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said the app demonstrates how, once again, Howard County is on the cutting edge of technology

"The potential for this app to be used in crime prevention and crime reporting is endless," Ulman said in a statement. "This makes it easier for our residents to connect with, and aid, our police officers. It will help us prevent crime and it will help us gather information we need to solve crimes."

The free app can be downloaded to an iPhone, Android or Blackberry app by searching "iWatchHowardCounty" in the app store.

The app can also be downloaded directly to a PC or laptop at www.iWatchHowardCounty.com. Police said the current telephone tip line, 410-313-STOP, will remain operational.

The app will also allow users to receive police information and news in real time as it is posted on social media sites. Users will also be able to provide input or opinions on the department by taking a survey.

“The launch of this technology is part of our ongoing effort to maintain strong partnerships with our communities,” said  McMahon. “Howard County is a great place to live and work, but only if people can continue to feel safe. This is one more tool for police and the public to communicate and work together to make that happen.”