2016-12-22 / Front Page

PD to use smartphone app

By Anthony Aloisio
Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – Old Orchard Beach Police department will begin using a smartphone app called MyPD to take tips and publish information to the community. MyPD is used by dozens of law enforcement agencies in the United States, including 11 others in Maine, according to the website of the app’s developer, WiredBlue. In York County it is also used by the York and Saco Police Departments.

“Almost everybody has a smartphone, so it’s a simple, easy way for people to connect with us,” said Officer Brian Pratt, who is in charge of the implementation.

In August the department was awarded a Community Development Block Grant of $100,000, which prompted the initiative to use the app.

“Part of the grant calls for community outreach of some kind,” Pratt said. “The MyPD app was my idea based on what I’ve seen other agencies do.”

The two main features of the app are community members’ ability to report information to the police department and the department’s ability to notify community members of new information in near realtime. Pratt said the ease of use is beneficial for collecting information.

“I think a big deterrent to some people calling in is, they don’t want to be identified, for whatever reason,” Pratt said.

Saco’s Police Department has used MyPD for a few years, according to Deputy Chief Raynald Demers. Demers was in agreement that ease of use has an important effect.

“It gives us information that we wouldn’t normally have,” Demers said. “We had a case off the Ferry Road where somebody had been going out into the woods and setting some small fires. That’s not something we would have known otherwise. These are things people could just call on the phone and report, but they would rather just get on the site and do it online.”

Demers said he thinks that the difference is a comfort level for people, considering the rise of use of technologies such as social media. He didn’t think that the benefit was along a generational divide, however, and pointed out that the person who reported the fires was in their 60s.

The reporting feature is also comprehensive. According to Demers, it allows reporting to specific officers.

“Say, if someone lives in the east area (of Saco), and they get on our site, and they see that east team involves Sgt. (Ken) Foss and Cpl. (Nick) Stankevitz, they may Second Congregational Church, 19 Crescent St., Biddeford; 7 p.m., SMHC cafeteria, Alfred St., Biddeford; noon and 7:30 p.m., 63 School St., Saco. FMI, visit www.csoaamaine.org/meeting.

Al-Anon meeting, 7 p.m., Trinity Episcopal Church, corner of Main and Cleveland streets, Saco. FMI, call 934-5453.

Salvation Army craft group, 9:30 a.m., for those who want to share craft ideas or fellowship, followed by free lunch at 11:30 a.m. Donations welcomed. FMI, call 934-4381.

Ross Center activities include Living Fit exercise class, 8 to 9 a.m.; walking, 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. FMI, call 282-5005. Ross Center is located at J.R. Martin Community Center, 189 Alfred St., Biddeford.

Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 35 South St., Biddeford. Drop in for free continental breakfast/lunch, free new/gently used clothing, Career Resource Center with help in searching for jobs, books from center’s lending library and support from staff/volunteers. FMI, call 571-9601. send them that directly,” Demers said. “It helps us to address issues directly.”

Communication with MyPD also goes the other way.

“MyPD does offer push messaging services,” Pratt said, “which means that if there’s some kind of emergency, for example, there’s a traffic delay or construction going on on one of our streets, we’ll be able to send a message out to the community.”

The police department is working on other community outreach projects, Pratt said, but he declined to give details.

“Outreach is more than just sending messages and receiving. It’s about actually getting involved in the community building process,” Pratt said. “No one solution is going to be enough. There’s always more that can be done. MyPD is just one variable in that equation.”

Old Orchard Beach’s implementation of the app involves configuring where information should go when it is directed somewhere specific. Community members might report information to animal control, Demers said as an example, and so that information needs to be delivered to the proper officers. Pratt said he expects that process to be done in the next couple weeks, and the community will be able to use the app then.

Costs associated with the app are in the form of fees paid to the developer. Those fees are $550 per year for Saco, according to Demers, which is included in the department’s budget. For Old Orchard Beach Pratt said the cost at the moment was $1,200 for two years, to be paid from the Community Development Block Grant funds. The Courier requested information on Old Orchard Beach’s funding for the app after those two years from the police administration, but it did not respond before deadline.

“I’m just excited that this is coming to fruition, and I hope people use and explore the app,” Pratt said. “It’s one of these things that we hope for as much community participation as possible.”

Pratt added that he is “more than willing to listen” to any input community members have about MyPD and community outreach.

Contact Staff Writer Anthony Aloisio at news@inthecourier.com.

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