NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office unveiled what it calls another tool to help citizens and law enforcement fight crime — a smartphone app.
The agency’s app, nearly two months in the making and free to download, hit Apple’s App Store on Tuesday and will be available for Android users today.
“This new phone app is probably a first of its kind in the country because of some of the features that we have,” Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
“And we’ve already gotten word that some sheriff’s offices in California have downloaded this because of some of the things that we’re doing.”
One of the highlighted features of the app is its ability to pinpoint your location and spot houses with dots where registered sex offenders live.
Other apps have the same function, finding sex offenders by address, but are unable to highlight your location — even as you move — in reference to the sex offenders’ homes.
“There are companies that do crime mapping, sexual offender mapping, but their maps on the app are not like this,” said Bill Todd, president of Fast Forward Marketing. “They don’t work as well — no offense to them, I apologize — but no other law enforcement agency has sexual offender mapping and sexual predator mapping on an app in your hand.”
Fast Forward Marketing has paired with at least a dozen other law enforcement agencies to create apps, Todd said.
The app, paid for by funding from a crime prevention allotment and not tax dollars, cost $14,000 to build, Nocco said. Sheriff’s office officials said that price is nearly half of what other vendors were charging.
It was the goal to get the app out in time for Halloween to allow parents and trick or treaters to steer clear of those convicted of sex crimes.
That timeline was nearly scratched after the group responsible for building the app changed it midway through. Apple’s upgrade of their operating system to iOS 7 also meant the company had to reconfigure the app for those changes.
Even with the challenges, the phone application is ready for Thursday night’s action.
“You just never know what door you’re knocking on,” Lt. Eric Seltzer said.
He said parents should not allow kids to go out by themselves and if teens are out without adult supervision, they should travel in groups. Also, candy seekers should not enter a home to look at decorations without the supervision of their parent or guardian.
Deputies and detectives will be out Thursday night, visiting sex offenders to ensure they are not giving out candy and have not set up decorations, enticing children to their homes.
Those actions are violations for some offenders and could lead to arrest.
The app will allow the sheriff’s office to push crime-, traffic- or weather-related alerts, to users. There also are icons linking smartphone users to a most-wanted list, safety tips and unsolved crime sections as well as a way to reach school resource officers throughout the county.
Although it doesn’t replace making a 911 call, citizens can report crimes and even submit photos of what they’ve witnessed.
Updates in the coming weeks will include a ‘Who’s in Jail’ portion that can be directly accessed from the app.
“We didn’t want to just do an app for the sake of saying, ‘We have a phone app,’” Nocco said. “We wanted to do something that is really going to be used, something that parents, our citizens are going to be proud of because with the Pasco sheriff’s office, our job is to be as innovative and cutting-edge as possible.
“We’re not going to do things just for the sake of doing it. We’re going to do something because it’s going to make an impact,” he said.