Sep. 22—If you see something, say something.
It's one of the biggest messages local police departments want the public to know.
And now for Howard County residents, it's pretty much all just a click away.
Back around July, the Kokomo Police Department and Howard County Sheriff's Office each launched new apps to help the agencies better communicate with area residents, and officials say the new technology is already paying off.
KOKOMO POLICE DEPARTMENT
"Our ultimate hope and our ultimate goal is to help keep our community safe, and I think this tool will help do that," KPD Maj. Brian Seldon said when asked about the department's new app, "Kokomo PD."
Developed by the national web-based platform Tip411, the new app — available for free on Apple Store or Google Play — will enable the public to share an anonymous tip with law enforcement and let officers respond back in real-time to create a 100% safe but completely anonymous two-way conversation.
Along with submitting tips, the new app will also allow residents to find department information and view alerts.
"This is 100% anonymous," Seldon said. "So an individual can use the app, or a computer, to send us information regarding anything. They can send us a video. They can send us a picture. And we can respond to them in that moment. We can even talk to that individual one-on-one if needed.
"We know there are crimes out there and information that people have, but sometimes a community member says they don't want to get involved and talk to the police," Seldon added. "So this offers another way for people to get information out about a particular crime to provide us that information we need to solve it."
And Seldon noted that he hasn't heard anything but good feedback so far about the app too.
"I think as more people become aware of it, it'll just become more and more helpful," he said. "... From reporting on a suspicious person or even just graffiti, the message will get to our officers, and we will follow up on every tip we receive through the app."
Those without a smartphone can still share anonymous tips with police via text message by typing the word "TIPKPD" to 847411 (tip411).
HOWARD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
When asked by the Tribune what made HCSO's new app — appropriately titled "Howard County Sheriff's Office" — truly unique, Capt. Jordan Buckley said that it's kind of like a "one-stop-shop."
The app — free to download from the Apple Store or Google Play — was developed by TheSheriffApp.com, a division of OCV LLC, and it offers residents quick access to items of public interest, such as warrants, jail information, sex offenders, current jail inmates, submission of anonymous tips and more.
"Almost any information that people are looking for can be found here," Buckley said. "We're not discouraging anyone from calling or anything like that, but we just wanted to offer another opportunity to get the information that people want. Maybe they need something at 2 o'clock in the morning or whatever that may be. Our hours don't always work for everyone, and we're just trying to keep up with technology and new advancements."
And like KPD, the HCSO's new app has already been making a difference for the department, Buckley noted.
"I think it's been overwhelmingly beneficial so far from the public's standpoint," he said. "And I hope that people just continue to interact with it and utilize the features and see that it's not us just trying to offset personal communication, but it's about just trying to give people another avenue to communicate with us.
"Crimes are hard to solve when you don't have witnesses," Buckley added. "Somebody has to be willing to stand up and say something, and sometimes it just takes that little piece of the puzzle for us to finish the rest."