Over the years, we've shown various ways that police officers are using technology in their daily work routines.
Cameras in cars, cameras on earpieces, taser guns, that sort of thing. Now, citizens can arm themselves with neighborhood crime stats, by touching their smartphone screen.
A new, free app called Crime Reports uses crime data, GPS, and Google maps to track everything and everybody in your neighborhood, district, and city, laying out all the crime going down in your area.
As used by the San Jose Police Department, in the heart of Silicon Valley where so many of the technologies behind it were invented, the app collects data on robberies, car thefts, assaults, all sorts of crimes, and lets you find out where and when they happened on your GPS-powered phone. The information offered in other cities depends on what data is provided by local agencies, but more than 600 agencies participate across the country.
The app is currently available on the Apple iPhone; the makers of Crime Reports tells us they're working on other platforms, too.
Want to find out where the sex offenders live in your area? Or, why six cop cars were stopped on 14th Street a few nights ago? Crime Reports can tell you. Slide your finger into a new neighborhood, and the local crime stats follow you.
You can compare neighborhoods, or, what most people did when we showed them the app, find out how many sex offenders are living in which neighborhoods.
One woman we asked grabbed the phone out of my hand, found her own cul-de-sac within a few touches, stared for a minute, and then handed me the phone with a smile, saying, "I picked a pretty good place to live."
Eventually, officers say they'd like the app to be a two-way street, where citizens can report incidents in their neck of the woods, and, as the app updates itself, both other residents and nearby officers could see what's going on as it's being reported.
According to Steven DiNoto of the SJPD, the app works because "you can get accurate and timely data, in a common language between officers and community members."
Not to mention a good conversation starter, no matter what neighborhood you're in at the time.