A handful of Peninsula-area agencies launched new smart phone apps Monday to help solve crimes and connect residents with city services.
The City of Hampton, City of Hampton Police Department, Newport News Sheriff’s Office, York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office and Hampton University announced the new ConnectProtect apps at a news conference at Hampton University on Monday.
The agencies received the new technology through a $75,000 grant provided by the Wason Fund for Public Safety via the Williamsburg Community Foundation, officials said.
Donors Harry and Judy Wason, of Williamsburg, told the Daily Press at the news conference that they were inspired to invest in public safety after having a conversation with a friend. Through their research, they learned about ConnectProtect already being used by the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office in Florida. Judy Wason said they heard the office’s success stories and they were sold.
“We said, wow, the Peninsula needs this,” she said.
With the help of the foundation, they reached out to the app maker, Shield Group Technologies, which hosted an information event for universities and law enforcement agencies across the Peninsula. A handful of agencies chose not to launch the app because they have other technology already in place, a company official said.
ConnectProtect is unique because it allows two-way communication between residents and the agencies and also uses geocoding to pinpoint specific locations, officials said.
Users can select locations of interest and receive information bulletins from the agency tailored for those areas. Using the “See something” or “Service requests options,” users can submit a request or tip to the agency. A photo or video can be added to the submission.
For example, an individual wanting to request a pothole repair using the 311 Hampton VA app can upload a photo or video with the request. The mobile device assigns a geographical location to the image, which tells the agency exactly where the photo was taken.
The technology gives local law enforcement agencies another method for receiving valuable crime tips from the public, officials said.
Hampton Police Division Chief Terry L. Sult said at the news conference his division has been working on ways to more quickly distribute information from the public to the officers on the streets.
“This is a step in that direction,” he said.
Hampton University’s Pirate Connect has similar crime-reporting features, but also has a panic button. Campus security is alerted to a student’s location when the button is pressed and held for five seconds. Christopher Newport University in Newport News will be launching a similar app through the company when students return in August, officials said.
Hampton University Chief of Police David Glover said at the conference he thinks the app is a great tool for college students who are constantly connected with technology.
“Our students always have their cellphones,” he said, “(and) they always have their faces in their cellphones.”
Ketchum can be reached by phone at 757-247-7478.
Get the app
Download ConnectProtect to your iPhone or Android device from the Apple Store or Google Play store on your device. Search “Connect Protect” with the locality’s name for best results (i.e. “Connect Protect Hampton”).