New app will offer R’land residents easy way to report issues to police

Have you ever noticed a suspicious car parked at your neighbor’s house while they’re away or a vehicle that doesn’t belong to any of your neighbors making repeated rounds through the neighborhood?

Well, these type activities will soon be easier to report to the Ridgeland Police Department.

The city of Ridgeland board of aldermen recently approved an agreement with Relay Citizen app for the implementation and annual subscription of a mobile application, which will allow citizens to report non-emergency issues directly from mobile devices.

“We’re 72 officers strong, and we have 25,000 people in this city,” Police Chief John Neal said. “If they’ll be cognizant of their surroundings and pay attention to what’s going on, that’s an extra set of eyes out there for us. Oftentimes, we run into people or people will tell us, ‘I just didn’t want to bother the police with this’ or ‘I didn’t think this was that important.’”

The free smartphone app will allow residents of the city of Ridgeland an easy option to report non-emergency issues.

“If there is a suspicious car parked in front of your neighbor’s house that’s been there for a couple of hours and you don’t recognize it, you can take a picture of it and upload it to the app and write out a message like, ‘There’s a car parked outside of my neighbor’s house, and I don’t recognize it. Can you send an officer by?’” Neal said.

The message will go straight to the officers, not through dispatch. So, the officer assigned to that particular area will get an alert and respond.

The dashboard is accessed through the officer’s in-car system and/or the officer’s smartphone. They can see all the issues in a queue for their area as they are submitted. Once issues are resolved, citizens are notified immediately on their smartphones.

“A good thing about this is that so many people report things to the police that they don’t ever hear the outcome on it,” Neal said. “So, the officers go, and let’s say it’s the babysitter and it’s a new car she got last week, and you haven’t seen it yet. The officer talks to the babysitter. All is good. No harm, no foul. The officer can then go in the app and type a response to whoever sent it in to begin with.”

One of the officers involved in getting the app started has seen results in their city because of people stealing things off of residents’ porches, according to Neal.

“People were reporting suspicious cars riding through the neighborhood, and when they got to looking at all of them, they saw that they were getting a lot of notifications for one particular car and a lot of packages were being stolen the days this car was in the area,” Neal said.

This is a way that the app will be beneficial in Ridgeland, especially as we go into the holiday season.

“If people are out shopping, and they see a suspicious car out riding around whether it is at Renaissance or Northpark or WalMart or any of our other retail areas, if they see something that doesn’t quite look right, then they take a quick picture and send it to us,” Neal said. “It should shorten the response time for officers.”

On October 17, the city is hosting a Neighbor’s Night Out event, and Neal said they are hoping to roll the new app out then. This will allow them time to show people how to use it and introduce it to residents.

The next steps for the police department will be working with the company to set up the geofence and some training sessions for officers on how to use it.

“Again, this is non-emergency,” Neal said. “If your house is getting broken into or if you see a crime occurring at that time, call 911.”

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