Android App Gives NYPD Instant Access To Crime Databases On The Go


Police officers in New York now have instant access to a wealth of criminal information on the go thanks to a new Android app. Feed it an address and the app returns the names of every resident with an open warrant, arrest record, or previous summons; the names of residents with orders of protection against them and those who own a gun; and the photographs of every parolee in the building.

The NYPD has rolled out 400 devices to its officers so far as part of a pilot program that began last summer, The New York Times reports. The smartphones are unable to make or receive calls, but they do have data connections that allow officers on foot patrol to quickly access a whole host of important information.

Using a special app, officers can look up a person’s criminal history and verify their identification by accessing digital arrest files, police photographs, and state DMV databases. The can find highly detailed information about an individual, such as whether they’ve been involved in an accident or a victim of a crime.

In one instance, the app was able to tell officers that a drug suspect known to the police liked to hide crack cocaine inside his left sock, Officer Tom Donaldson said.

“I tell them, ‘I’m going to see your picture,’ ” Donaldson said. “They don’t realize we have this technology. They can’t tell me a lie because I know everything.”

Before they had this app, officers had to use the computers installed in around 2,500 patrol cars to access this kind of information, and they often had to login to separate databases with multiple passwords using a “spotty” Internet connection, NYT reports.

In some situations, officers had to rely on radioing a police dispatcher for information, but this was barebones at best.

“Our dispatcher will tell us if they have a warrant or not but it’s a simple yes or no answer,” said Officer Donaldson. “I don’t know if the guy is wanted for murder or for not paying a parking summons. We rarely know. Now we know.”

It still amazes me what smartphones can do when they’re put to good use. And most of us use them to play Angry Birds and tweet pictures of our morning latte.