New app makes sense to aid cops
SouthtownStar editorial May 21, 2012 10:00PM
Updated: July 2, 2012 8:40AM
We all know, or at least we should, that there can be no expectation of privacy while out and about in this age of smart phones. There’s someone nearby ready to text or take a photo of your misbehavior.
That’s disconcerting to many, but there are benefits to such openness, including making you pause when contemplating doing something you might regret — or being able to assist police by reporting criminal activity.
There’s now a software application that will make it easier to rat on the bad guys, possibly even while a crime is being committed. Called iWatch, it’s arrived in the Southland with Lynwood police and is expected to gradually be adopted by other police departments in the area.
Lynwood Police Chief Michael Mears is promoting the free app, hoping that the day comes soon when local PDs “could all share data and info in real time. ... It’s basically the new age for community policing.”
While iWatch can be a substitute for 911, Mears emphasizes that it’s designed to tip police to dangerous or criminal activity for investigation rather than to report on an emergency situation or crime as it’s occurring.
“If there is a heated domestic argument going on, we don’t want someone getting stabbed doing this,” he said. “... It will be monitored by dispatch, but by no means does it take precedent over the 911 operations.”
iWatch’s creator says about 70 police forces nationwide now use the app, and the number is increasing, with Lynwood being the first in Illinois. The costs are nominal — there’s a set-up fee of $1,000 and a monthly fee of $70 for the service.
Mears said iWatch should facilitate crime tips to his department because it allows them to be made anonymously, if so desired, and tipsters won’t have to look up a police department’s number or wonder who to ask for in providing a crime tip.
In this time of municipal downsizing and lower budgets, police can use all the help they can get in fighting crime. iWatch seems to be an innovative tool to help them do so, and one that other police agencies should consider to get more eyes and ears on the street.