Police often refer to residents as their “eyes and ears,” and now a new smart phone application available in South Portland will link those senses more closely to law enforcement.

“MyPD” is smart telephone software, free to the user, that is designed to make it simple and quick to connect with local police. It also takes advantage of cellphone technology, making it feasible to send photographs and precise GPS locations with a report.

“The fact of the matter is, the easier we make it for them in environments they’re used to, the more apt they are to contact us,” said South Portland Police Chief Ed Googins. “With a lot of crime reporting, they don’t want to sit around waiting for officers to show up.”

The application, developed by a police officer in the Peabody (Mass.) Police Department, has links that enable someone to look up the South Portland police website, fill out a report or email a particular officer. It will cost South Portland $400 per year.

Crime tips can be submitted under specific headings so they get to the proper officer. Examples include cyberbullying, drug tips, graffiti issues, neighborhood concerns, school concerns, speeding and traffic, or wanted persons.

Convenience is key, Googins said. Any obstacle, be it finding the phone number or not knowing who to call, makes it more likely that a resident or visitor won’t make the call in the first place, he said.

“How often is someone inclined to pick up a phone and call the police department and ask a question? Listen, it doesn’t happen,” Googins said. “I sent myself an email. It was easier to do on my smart phone than it was to do at my desk.”

The application isn’t just a handy email and telephone directory. It takes advantage of the smart phone capabilities to gather more information than has typically been available.

A person can easily snap a picture with his or her phone and attach it to a report. The information also can include a GPS location so officers know exactly where a report originated or a photo was taken.

That could be important in a report about graffiti or getting police a license plate number of a suspicious car.

Police say residents should always use 911 if there is an emergency or to ensure a swift response, since the crime tips show up in the form of email and are not checked immediately.

Robert Schwartz, former South Portland chief and now executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, expects many metropolitan departments will take advantage of similar technology.

“I would think it’s a worthwhile investment,” he said. “Anything that gets the public contacting you or getting information about issues (police) need to know about is important.”

South Portland is just one of a handful of departments in the country and the first in the state to sign on to the new technology, said South Portland Sgt. Thomas Simonds, who worked on the implementation.

The application, developed by WiredBlue, is available in both the iTunes and Android marketplaces.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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