SAVANNAH, GA (November 23, 2011): A computer-based program that allows the public to submit tips on suspicious activity has been launched by Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police.
iWatch Savannah is now available as a website to anyone who may have seen suspicious activity but isn’t sure if it is bears reporting. It can be accessed on the Internet only at iwatchsavannah.com.
The website allows users to submit the report, explain why they feel the information or activity is important, and even download photos and/or videos from their computer if they are available. A component to allow downloads from cell phones is being developed. Users are asked for contact information so police can request more information, if necessary. Information is not shared outside the department.
All submissions are reviewed by the crime prevention officers in each of the five SCMPD precincts as well as analysts in SARIC (Savannah Area Regional Intelligence Center), the department’s intelligence division. They assign tips to appropriate officers.
iWatch allows the public to quickly and easily communicate concerns and suspicions for officers to check on a non-emergency basis. Police hope it will enhance the Community Policing efforts of SCMPD.
The program was adapted from one initiated by the Los Angeles Police Department soliciting tips on homeland security issues. Police there noticed that many tips referred to local issues.
That program was noticed by Islands Precinct Crime Prevention Officer Robert Martier and his captain, Charles Hall. They encouraged the department to adopt the program. Chief Willie Lovett agreed. Hall expects it to enhance communication with the public.
“We are responding to the ever-changing climate in security and policing with the iWatch Program,” Hall said. “This innovation enhances policing concepts like Neighborhood Watch and Crimestoppers. Once established, this will be a useful crime-fighting tool for police and the community.
“Some crimes have been solved or even prevented by tips from citizens who reported suspicious activity and allowed us to respond quickly. But some are hesitant to call, not sure if they saw criminal activity or not. This allows them to contact us without pressure.”
Police are quick to differentiate between iWatch and Crimestoppers. Crimestoppers is the well-established program that collects information on specific crimes anonymously and can pay as much as $2,500 for a tip that leads to an arrest. iWatch does not pay for information and is not anonymous. It is designed to report situations that seem out of place.
SARIC analysts adapted the program to fit Savannah’s needs. City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney authorized Chief Lovett to utilize seized funds to pay for program development. Programming was done by QiSoft, of Savannah.
# # #