Smartphones are helping local law enforcement officers do their jobs more efficiently.
Justin Adamson, a student technician for BYU Police Technology and Communications, said despite the learning curve, the net result of smartphone technology is positive.
“It’s definitely a lot better than if we didn’t have it,” Adamson said.
Steve Goodman, head of BYU Police Technology and Communications, said smartphones make it possible to reach officers 24/7.
“Communication is key for us,” Goodman said. “We’ve got to be able to communicate.”
Orem Police Department officer Sgt. Scott Spieth agreed smartphones facilitate communication between officers.
“The cell phone allows for much clearer communication,” Spieth said. “It’s more of an issue of convenience.”
Officers used radios to communicate with each other before the invention of cellphones. Radios are still an important method of communication between officers, according to Goodman.
However, smartphones have the additional benefit of helping officers communicate with the public without being stuck in their offices. For example, an officer could speak to a witness about an ongoing investigation while on patrol.
“Officers are supposed to be mobile,” Goodman said. “We want them to be mobile.”
More efficient investigations
Smartphones make gathering and distributing information about investigations easier for law enforcement officers.
Officers can use their smartphones to take pictures of crime scenes rather than carrying around a separate camera. They also use their smartphones to distribute photos — such as pictures of missing children or the crime suspects — to other officers.
Goodman said officers aren’t the only ones using smartphones to help with investigations.
He said a serial bike thief on the BYU campus was caught several years ago because a concerned citizen took a picture of someone as he was stealing a bike. The picture showed the suspect had a cast, so when an officer interviewed a suspect who had a cast, they knew they’d found their bike thief.
“People carrying cellphones have been a big help for us,” Goodman said.
BYU police officers have been using cell phones for years, from flip phones to Blackberrys. But smartphones are new territory, according to Goodman.
“Being able to put applications now on the smartphones — that’s the difference,” Goodman said.[vc_tta_accordion color=”peacoc” active_section=”1″][vc_tta_section title=”CiteWrite” tab_id=”1490719669079-4ab4f6c4-61c6″]
CiteWrite is an app that was developed specifically for BYU police officers about 10 years ago, according to Adamson.
Officers patrol BYU parking lots in cars equipped with license plate reader cameras. The cameras are synced with the license plates registered with BYU.
When a camera picks up a license plate that isn’t registered, it beeps.
Officers can then use CiteWrite to type up a parking citation and print it from a mobile printer.
SecureTour is another app developed specifically for BYU officers, according to Adamson. The app automatically marks where officers have been on their patrols.
BYU police officers began using the app in January 2017.
Steve Goodman said a BYU police officer told him SecureTour has increased productivity by 20 percent.
Spillman Touch is an app that allows officers to view dispatch information from a mobile device.
Keeping up with the criminals
But smartphone technology has helped both law enforcement officers and criminals.
For example, on Feb. 18 a Provo man pointed a gun at officers from inside a house and posted death threats against them on social media, unbeknownst to the officers.
Officers arrested the man after multiple citizens saw the social media threats and called the Provo Police Department.
Spieth said even though smartphones have made officers’ jobs easier, “it has equally afforded people involved in criminal elements to have that much more advantage, as well.”
On the other hand, Spieth said criminals sometimes leave their phones at the scene of a crime.
“Once we’re able to access those phones, it really exposes people,” Spieth said. “It’s a double-edged sword for a criminal to have a phone.”
Goodman said officers having smartphones balances out any advantage the phones might give criminals.
“I’d like to think that it improves us,” Goodman said.
“They’ve absolutely changed the face of how we do business and how criminals do business,” Spieth said.