Pappas family invests in mobile app to improve police relationship with youth in Baltimore area

The Pappas family, famous for its Baltimore-area seafood restaurants and catering service — and especially for its crab cakes — says it is trying to build a mobile app designed to improve relationships between cops and kids.

The PAPP app, which is still in development, would reward police officers and local youth who engage in specified tasks — such as walking the kids’ neighborhoods together — with vouchers to Pappas restaurants or other participating businesses, said Daniel Burgess, president of the family’s nonprofit Mark Pappas Foundation.


The app is based on the Policing and Parenting Partnership, or PAPP, program, which Burgess said he started in Aberdeen, in Harford County, and is now hoping to expand into Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

“It’s everyone working together for the benefit of the relationship between law enforcement and youth,” said the Baltimore native.

Mark Pappas, a Greek immigrant turned seafood tycoon, opened the Pappas Restaurant & Sports Bar in Parkville in 1961. The Pappas Seafood Co. now has three restaurants — the other two in Glen Burnie and Cockeysville — and a catering service that ships its famous crab cakes around the world.

Pappas’ son Steve Pappas, the company’s CEO, said he formed the foundation to help make a difference in the Baltimore area.

“It started here in Parkville, with my restaurant. We had some issues with getting broken into, and I decided I wanted to be proactive as opposed to trying to figure out how to bar up the doors and make it look like we were expecting those problems,” he said. “I’m hoping that we can really help Baltimore and bring down crime rates and youth getting involved in gangs and make a difference, to possibly make Baltimore a better, safer place.”

Burgess said he has about 10 retired and active law enforcement officers, from multiple agencies outside the city, signed up to assist in testing the app over the next year alongside about 30 youth — several from a church in Patterson Park, a few from Harford County and the bulk from Newtown High School in Owings Mills.

Burgess initially said $100,000 had been invested in the project by the Pappas foundation, but later said he meant that was the total amount “spent in the community and what the Mark Pappas Foundation as a whole has done.”

Steve Pappas said his family has invested and raised about $60,000 for the foundation as a whole to date, a portion of which it intends to invest in the app, and hopes to raise significantly more to finance the app’s development moving forward.

Once the app is fully developed and the organization sees how the cops and the kids use the app, what works and what doesn’t, they plan to expand it more widely across the region. They have already had preliminary discussions with police officials in Baltimore, including new Commissioner Michael Harrison, but no commitments yet, Burgess said.

Harrison declined through a spokesman to comment on the app, but he has expressed interest in finding new ways to reward officers for their good work, rather than just punishing them when they mess up.

If the app is successful in Baltimore, Burgess and Pappas said they hope to export it elsewhere.

“If the application takes here, there's no end to where it could go,” Pappas said. “Maybe it could help other cities as well.”