University of Maryland creates iPhone app to report crime

A new smartphone application created at the University of Maryland looks to turn a student’s smartphone into a crime-fighting and emergency response device.

The application – called “Video 911” – allows student witnesses or victims of crimes and other public safety emergencies to broadcast both their location and live audio and video footage directly to a police dispatcher, who would then alert first responders closest to the scene of the crime.

The app, creators say, eliminates the need to dial 911, as simply opening the app and pressing a button for help would put the student in touch with a dispatcher.

Darrell Darnell, GW’s vice president for safety and security, said he views the creation of the app as a “promising development,” adding that the app itself is a potentially valuable tool.

“Any method that will allow students to contact law enforcement and public safety officials and quickly report a crime, or potential crime, is a valuable tool, particularly a tool such as an app that most students are familiar with and comfortable using,” he said in an e-mail.

While the app has yet to become operational, UMD Assistant University Police Chief Maj. Jay Gruber said the concept has worked “fantastically” in a lab environment, and UMD is currently seeking approximately $100,000 to pay for a pilot program.

Gruber said funding could come from telecommunication companies or the state within the next year.

Gruber said he sees the V911 app having a “big impact” at UMD and beyond, since in addition to its benefits for victims and witnesses of crime, it also allows for increased “situational awareness” for first responders and the ability to watch situations develop.

If the app proves to be successful in a live environment on the UMD campus, Gruber said he can see it spreading “not just to other college campuses, but also to other 911 responders.”

Darnell said he hopes to reach out to University of Maryland public safety officials to determine how the pilot program progresses, and to determine whether this is a tool that could be implemented at GW.

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