Leave it to the city that elected Naheed Nenshi to become one of the first municipalities in North America to make large amounts of city data available to its residents. On Tuesday, the Calgary Police Service released CPS Mobile, a handy Android, BlackBerry 10 and iOS app that allows Calgarians to take advantage of the variety of services its police department offers.
CPS Mobile was developed internally by the Calgary Police Service, and the organization now sees the app as an integral part of its so-called crime prevention and reduction continuum, an initiative that aims to reduce crime through awareness and education.
CPS Mobile features several really interesting features for an app of this type.
One of the first ones that caught my eye was the “Crime Map”. Clicking on this button leads to a screen where the user can create a map of Calgary that highlights particular crimes by date range. There are a lot of potential uses for this type of feature. For instance, home owners use the map to see if there’s been a flurry of break-ins in their neighbourhood. This is the type of useful information the Open Data revolution has been promising for a long time, and it’s great to see it finally make its way into a highly visible app.
According Guy Slater, the superintendent of the Calgary Police Service, this part of the app is not meant to invoke paranoia among the city’s residents. “We’ve been capturing and sharing crimes statistics on our website for a number of years,” he said in a phone interview. “They’re not there for creating fear and anxiety; it’s more about education and awareness.”
Indeed, it’s easy to see how that approach extends to every section of the app. Clicking on the hamburger icon, for instance, pulls out a menu with additional services and resources (see below). On the resources front, there’s information on programs that the Calgary Police Service provides when it comes to domestic violence and youth counselling and participation.
Those are just some of features the app presents. There are a lot more, including the ability for users to submit tips through Crime Stoppers, a news section that provides short briefs on the latest crimes and the ability to make traffic service requests.
“I’m cautious to hoot our own horn, but when we started working on this app we did look at what other agencies were doing,” says Slater. “It’s a growing opportunity for police agencies around the world. We think this app as a way forward for policing across the province, the country and the rest of North America.”
That said, it’s not a perfect first iteration by any means: clicking on almost any link on the iOS version of the app takes the user out of the app and into Safari. Still, there’s so much useful information here that it’s easy to forgive such an oversight, and if Facebook comments are any indication, public reaction to the app in Calgary has been overwhelming positive. Moreover, the Calgary police department has already promised that it will continue to iterate on the app. “This is not a static, one-time effort,” says Slater.
The app can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store, Google Play or BlackBerry World.