iWatch Puts Crime Tips on Mobile Phones
By: Jennifer Gavigan
iWatch™, iThinQware’s flagship product, is built on a crime tipping engine that allows near real-time reporting of crime data and manages alerts (SMS text messages, e-mails, RSS feeds of text, video or images). iWatch Applications allow citizens to respond to police requests for information, or submit digital photos or videos from cell phones or cameras directly to the officers investigating a specific crime. Many law enforcement agencies just don’t have the resources to manage tips about non-9-1-1 calls for service. Now it is possible to manage any number of tips, and deliver the valuable information to investigating officers in just seconds.
With the module installed, law enforcement can link information (rewards, tip lines, video, photos, sketches, etc.) with offense reports, and publish alerts, warnings, maps, and other information to selected audiences (other agencies, specific law enforcement officers, the general public, news media, and Crime Watch associations or other groups).
iWatch is a mobile application that enables citizens to turn in tips, images and videos about crimes or suspicious activities directly to law enforcement from almost any mobile phone or PC. Citizens can remain anonymous or may choose to disclose their identity. Crime tips or suspicious activity reports can be submitted through iWatch as text messages, e-mails or phone calls, and all tips are sent in real time to the law enforcement agency.
“We decided the only thing missing in the ‘See Something, Say Something’ program was the mobile phone in the palm of your hand. Until we invented the iWatch application, no citizen could say something with enough immediacy or with the precise detail that a Fusion center or CID could fully benefit from having,” said Dan Elliott, who developed the application for his software company, iThinQware. “We made it work where no other application could, and the proof is in the tips.”
The iWatch Apps help law enforcement reach out to a “connected America” in ways never before possible. In the U.S., smartphones have become an ever-present tool used in progressively more and more diverse ways and law enforcement can now build relationships with a demographic that is expanding at a rate of 260 percent per year. Cisco research reports: 1. There will be nearly one mobile device per capita by 2015. There will be over 7.1 billion mobile connected devices, including machine-to-machine (M2M) modules, in 2015—approximately equal to the world’s population in 2015 (7.2 billion).
The strength of the iWatch system lies not only the ability of citizens to report suspicious activity via SMS text (along with images, video attachments and geolocation information) but also in the power of the iWatch Web interface. iWatch allows any authorized agency member to measure and evaluate the exigency of a tip and electronically transfer the tip, along with additional investigative information, either to other agency members or to external law enforcement and other partner organizations. iWatch leverages the two-way real time dialogue common in social networking platforms along with the technology infrastructure and platforms that are already used by agencies and their personnel, e.g. mobile phones, PDAs, computers and other web-enabled devices.
iWatch’s information sharing capabilities use the power of highly trained agency assets along with the ubiquitous presence of the civilian population to promote operational readiness, protect communities and installations against potential terrorist threats and criminal activity, dramatically increase incident response time, and ultimately reduce crime.
A secure, closed communications module available only to law enforcement displays all available information about the crime, the suspect and the victim from forensic data to witness statements. Defined groups (investigating officers, patrol officers in a defined area, supervisors, etc.) can receive alerts when new information is added to the case file and investigators can set up discussion groups or email lists to pool information, theories and thoughts on the crime. An open communications module managed by law enforcement displays selected information to the general public.
The date, location and general description of the burglary would be publicly available within a few hours via eCrimeAlerts.org (an “arms-reach” public information website operated by participating law enforcement agencies in addition to their departmental PubliQeyes site). Interested members of the general public who had signed up to receive alerts about a specific kind of crime, offenses in a particular zip code, or crimes against a particular type of victim (crimes against the elderly, crimes against children, hate crimes, etc.) would be notified of the offense in near real time via the alerting method (SMS text message, email, or RSS feed) they selected. Citizens can then respond to the alert by sending relevant tips, photos, videos and other information directly to the police.
This combination of public and private communications with automatic sorting, segregation and delivery of information by audience and information type is extremely powerful and has not been available to law enforcement in the past except with costly customized systems that took months to build and deploy. iThinQware’s solution is cost-effective enough to fall within the discretionary spending limits in most agencies (meaning that no RFP or bid process is required) and powerful enough to meet and exceed expectations and needs in multiple departments within the agency. Each iThinQware product is uniquely suited to its target market, including full compliance with industry standards such as those established by the Law Enforcement Information Technology Standards Council (LEITSC).
iWatch is an application that directly supports a Sheriff’s Strategic Vision by providing a secure environment that facilitates increased collaboration, coordination and communication both within the agency as well as with external and international partners. As a proven source of near real-time, decision-quality information, iWatch modernizes the traditional investigation, pursuit, capture and prosecution process without adding to existing workflows or impacting law enforcement standards. iWatch’s information sharing capabilities use the power of highly trained agency assets along with the ubiquitous presence of the civilian population to promote operational readiness, protect communities and installations against potential terrorist threats and criminal activity, dramatically increase incident response time, and ultimately reduce crime.
iWatch Army Pilot Program
“Antiterrorism is about people saying something,” said Maj. Gen. David Quantock, provost marshal general of the Army. Speaking up about suspicious activity is always the first-line defense against terrorism, said a top Army antiterrorism official. Quantock discussed the Army’s antiterrorism initiatives before the Antiterrorism Awareness Month last August.
As part of Antiterrorism Awareness Month, soldiers will be educated about and reminded to participate in the iWatch program. That program operates like a neighborhood watch program, Quantock said. Soldiers, civilians and families are encouraged to recognize and report suspicious activity to law enforcement agents. Reports filed in iWatch are then passed to the FBI’s larger “eGuardian” system, which connects law enforcement agencies and intelligence organizations at all levels of government, across the United States.
“Antiterrorism [efforts] can be people like you and I walking around our post, camp and stations,” Quantock said. “That’s probably the most important, most cost-effective way.” The general said unusual or suspicious activity could include vehicles parked illegally, unseasonable or ill-fitting clothing, and persons loitering around or taking pictures of a sensitive area, post or access control point.
“All of these kinds of things that look suspicious really need to be reported to law enforcement officials, and they’ll do something about it,” Quantock stated. The general said consequences of not being vigilant could include a compromise of national security or military and civilian deaths or injuries. Integrating antiterrorism measures into the contract support process is also an Army initiative. “We have many folks working around (and) on our installations, supporting our installations,” Quantock said. “We’ve got to make sure they’re actually trying to help us and not trying to hurt us.”
Quantock also said the lessons from the November 2009 shooting at Fort Hood have helped the Army identify insider threats. “From looking at the Fort Hood study, we have found many gaps and seams in our personnel, our behavioral, and our law enforcement systems that really needed to be brought together,” Quantock said. The general said the military training and culture of getting involved and taking action goes hand in hand with antiterrorism.
Unlike civilians out in the community, who might fear involvement in, or cooperation with a police investigation, even if it means catching a wrongdoer in their own community, Soldiers, he
said, take pride in doing what is right. “All I would say is if you see something, say something,”