Smartphone apps keep residents in touch with Midlands police

Police department embraces mobile technologyPolice department embraces mobile technology

nophillips@thestate.comFebruary 4, 2013 

Detail from a raidsonline.com crime map of Columbia. The company, of which the Columbia Police Department is a client, offers a mobile version for iPhones and iPads.

— Want to know where the latest crimes have happened in Columbia?

Need to send cops a tip on a drug-dealing neighbor?

How about listening to Columbia firefighters talk on the radio?

Grab your phone.

The market for public safety information available on smartphones and tablets is growing, and several agencies in Columbia are taking advantage of it to keep citizens informed.

The Columbia Police Department is participating in two apps. In RAIDS, city residents can check daily crime data. And MyPD allows residents to send crime tips, file reports and send emails to department leaders. (Links to RAIDS maps and other law enforcement resources can be found at our crime page: Click here.)

The Lexington County Fire Service and Batesburg-Leesville Police Dispatch are among the law enforcement agencies available on 5-0 Radio, an app that serves as a police scanner.

The Columbia Police Department has embraced the technology as a way to keep residents informed, said Jennifer Timmons, a department spokeswoman.

“We have nothing to hide,” she said.

Chief Randy Scott said he wanted to change the department’s reputation of withholding crime data from the public.

“It is to inform the community in real time,” he said. “Ten years ago, you wouldn’t get any information out of the city.”

Scott said some people advised him against participating in RAIDS because it might cause unnecessary fear or lead to people criticizing the department if they spot a rash of robberies in an area. But Scott said he was willing to risk those problems to keep people informed.

In the RAIDS app, users can see crimes from the previous day pinpointed on a map of their neighborhoods, said Bridget Caffery, a Columbia police crime analyst. The data is loaded into the system every morning, she said.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department and the Lexington, West Columbia and USC police departments also provide crime data through the RAIDS app.

Bob Kaminski, an associate professor in the USC Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said the apps are a growing trend. He believes the technology that links police to the community is mostly good and sees all sorts of potential uses.

For example, someone moving to a new city could check the crime maps when looking for a new house.

“From the public point of view, I would like to know that if I were moving there,” he said.

Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.

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