Next-generation Crime Fighting is Only a Swipe Away

The City of Fishers, Indiana is battling crime through enhanced community engagement. It’s secret is no further than your pocket…

By Thomas Mirc

There are an estimated 4.77 billion mobile phones in the hands of users worldwide right now. That’s one for every adult on Earth. As the number of people with mobile phones grows, funds available for municipal policing continue to decline, nationwide. Recognizing that the community would have to be an integral part of crime fighting in the future, The US Department of Justice launched Community Oriented Policing Services in 1994.

The City of Fishers, Indiana, a northwest suburb of Indianapolis, has grown from a hamlet of 628 people in 1970, to over 76,000 residents today. Boasting population growth rates of 220%, 270%, 404%, and 103% over the past four decades, the city has had to repeatedly turn to innovation to solve its budgetary challenges.

Typically, population growth can mean increased crime. But in Fishers, crime has been well managed through the rapid influx of new residents. Fishers was named the safest town in America in 2012 and 2013.  

Recognizing a need to leverage the power of the community to stay ahead of crime, the City of Fishers Police Department launched an innovative program in 2016.

CrimeWatch is a mobile application, developed by the application developer Auri’s Ideas for the City of Fishers. The application can be downloaded by any resident to an iOS or Android smartphone. Within 5 minutes, a user creates an account and becomes an extension of Fishers’ police force.

The application enables residents to report suspicious activity through the app directly to officers on patrol. The user can enhance their crime reports through photographs and geolocation data. The department intended for the application to get people who typically wouldn’t call 911 to interact with the police. It’s done that and more.  With over 3,700 users who filed a report in 2016, Fishers app has resulted in several arrests, and is indirectly improving the quality of life of 76,000 residents.

While there are many examples of mobile applications focused on reporting crime, Fishers’ app has a different twist that makes it particularly effective. Data from all inbound reports are tracked in the application’s database. This gives users a real time view of what’s happening in their community. But to promote maximum transparency, the app provides code to any user who wants to imbed Fishers’ crime data into their neighborhood website. Users from homeowners associations can then use the app’s code to display crime maps and reports specific to their neighborhood on their neighborhood website or through other applications like NextDoor.

The application achieves three goals 1) community engagement to aid in improving the quality of a public service offering (co-production), 2) improved government transparency through data sharing, and 3) improved communications through community-based publishing.

The application is unique to other crime-fighting applications, in that it is not anonymous, and it routes reports to officers on-duty. The combination of these two factors ensure that community reports are responded to and don’t fall into a backlog.

Many in the Indianapolis region have noted how Fishers’ CrimeWatch app is having a big effect on community engagement. By leveraging the power of technology and the engagement of Fishers residents, Fishers has substantially augmented its police force without substantially increasing its police spending. Fishers’ CrimeWatch program is likely to become a model for other communities looking to innovate at low cost amidst an inevitable future of declining municipal budgets.  

Learn More:

To find out more about Fishers, Indiana’s CrimeWatch App, visit:  https://crimewatch.fishers.in.us/

References:

Fox News 59, Indianapolis, Indiana, January 3, 2017 “Fishers Police Department Urging Other Hamilton County Agencies to Utilize Crime Watch App: http://fox59.com/2017/01/03/fishers-police-department-urging-other-hamilton-co-agencies-to-utilize-crime-watch-app/

CQ Press, Safest Towns in America Rankings, 2013 http://os.cqpress.com/citycrime/2012/CityCrime2013_CityCrimeRankingsFactSheet.pdf

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