Po­lice go mo­bile

The Prince Al­bert Po­lice Ser­vice is get­ting ready to roll out a new app to ex­pand its reach on­line

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - FRONT PAGE - ARTHUR WHITE-CRUMMEY

The Prince Al­bert Po­lice Ser­vice is get­ting ready to mod­ern­ize its on­line pres­ence, with a new web­site, a mo­bile app and an in­ter­ac­tive crime map.

Po­lice Chief Troy Cooper looked on as an IT spe­cial­ist pre­sented a sam­ple to the Board of Po­lice Com­mis­sion­ers. Cooper said the new app should be ready to roll out by the end of the year.

“The pur­pose of this ap­pli­ca­tion was to make po­lice in­for­ma­tion more avail­able to the public and im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tions,” he said.

“It’s mod­ern and it’s the way peo­ple ac­cess po­lice in­for­ma­tion now.”

The po­lice ser­vice’s cur­rent web pres­ence isn’t mo­bile friendly. That’s a big con­cern for Chief Cooper. He wants to reach more peo­ple, es­pe­cially youth, who pre­fer nav­i­gat­ing the web on their phones.

“We know that the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple don’t ac­cess in­ter­net con­tent through a com­puter,” Cooper said.

“They do it through their smart de­vices now,” Cooper ex­plained. “The new web­page we’re work­ing on will look bet­ter, will per­form bet­ter, will be more at­trac­tive, will have more in­for­ma­tion, to some­one ac­cess­ing it on a smart de­vice.”

Ankil Pa­tel, the lead pro­gram­mer on the project, walked the board through the new fea­tures in the mo­bile app. He said most large po­lice agen­cies are al­ready us­ing sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy to reach their res­i­dents.

The app will allow users to file po­lice re­ports through their phone, some­thing that’s more cum­ber­some with the cur­rent web­site. It will pro­vide alerts on emer­gency in­for­ma­tion and con­nect directly to the po­lice ser­vice’s Face­book, Twitter and YouTube chan­nel.

Pa­tel showed the com­mis­sion­ers a sam­ple of the app’s staff di­rec­tory, which will help peo­ple con­tact the right de­part­ment for their con­cerns. But Cooper hopes that the app will help re­lieve his of­fi­cers of some rou­tine tasks, as res­i­dents plug into the new “vir­tual po­lice of­fi­cer” fea­ture to an­swer ba­sic ques­tions.

“Peo­ple call ev­ery day about how do I get rid of a crim­i­nal record, how do I get my record checked. There are con­stant repet­i­tive ques­tions,” he said. “It helps us to re­fer peo­ple to this.”

Evert Botha, one of the po­lice com­mis­sion­ers, sug­gested get­ting heavy mo­bile users to test the app be­fore it rolls out of­fi­cially. The Chief seemed favourable to the idea, say­ing it would be a good op­por­tu­nity to get more young peo­ple in­volved in polic­ing.

The new web­site will also be mo­bile friendly. It’s more vis­ually ap­peal­ing than the cur­rent site, with larger pho­tos and homepage links to vir­tu­ally all rel­e­vant con­tent.

Cooper said the old web­site was “flat,” and due for a change.

“It was just time, time to re­new it and re­fresh it and to en­gage the com­mu­nity a lit­tle more,” he said. “Com­mu­ni­cat­ing what we have to the public is re­ally im­por­tant for us.”

Both the web­site and the app are ex­pected to in­clude an in­ter­ac­tive crime map, al­low­ing res­i­dents to drill down into of­fence data or­ga­nized by city block.

Pa­tel ex­plained that the map will allow users to break down the data by time of day and spe­cific of­fence. For in­stance, a search for the 100 Block of 20 St. East dur­ing school hours would pro­duce a spe­cific re­port, with se­lec­tions for rob­beries, break and en­ters or any other type of of­fence.

“They would also be able to share this data through their email and their so­cial me­dia ac­counts as well,” Pa­tel said. “Plus they would be able to see the crime trends go­ing on in their neigh­bour­hood.”

The chief said that his team of three IT spe­cial­ists has been work­ing on the project, as a part-time job, since it was ap­proved in last year’s bud­get. He said the cap­i­tal costs were $20,000 for a soft­ware pack­age, plus the labour costs for the hours his staff have de­voted to get­ting it ready.

Pa­tel seemed con­fi­dent that the app and the web­site will be ready be­fore 2018.

“That all de­pends on the tim­ing, all the tests that come out from feed­back we get from test users,” he said. “We will be launch­ing it by the end of the year.”

But he wasn’t sure if the map will be up and run­ning in time for the chief’s dead­line.

“That’s a bit of an ar­gu­ment be­tween IT staff and my­self,” he said. “I’d like peo­ple not to have to up­date… that’s still in dis­cus­sion.”

De­spite the ar­gu­ment, the chief com­mended his team for their hard work. He said they’ve been go­ing hard in re­cent weeks to fine-tune the soft­ware pack­age they started with and make it rel­e­vant to Prince Al­bert.

“It will be a lot of work now to cus­tom­ize it, so it’s not just canned soft­ware, that we ac­tu­ally make it some­thing that’s more mean­ing­ful,” he said.

“That was the in­tent all along, for us to find a bet­ter way to present our data in a more mean­ing­ful way to the com­mu­nity.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY PRINCE AL­BERT PO­LICE SER­VICE

A screen­shot show­ing what the mo­bile app will look like.

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