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NYPD uses mobile to fight crime

Callers to New York City's 911 emergency hotline are now able to assist in crime fighting using their mobile phones.

Callers to 911 will be able to send photos or video from a mobile phone or computer to the NYPD's Real Time Crime Center, where relevant images may be used to assist in crime fighting or in responding to other emergencies. The public will also be able to send pictures and videos from Web-enabled mobile handsets to accompany 311 quality of life complaints.

"The long-term goal of enabling 311 and NYC.gov, along with 911, to receive pictures and videos is not only to better adapt these channels to the preferences of our customers by keeping them fresh and technologically innovative, it's to help the City better deliver services," said Paul J. Cosgrave, chief information officer of New York City.

"Whether it's a criminal case, garbage on the sidewalk, graffiti or a pothole, customers will be able to send valuable data to the city -- and authorities will have visual information to more efficiently address harmful conditions and improve quality of life citywide," he said.

The 911 service announced was developed internally by the New York City Police Department.

Usablenet partnered with the New York City's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to develop the 311 mobile solution for NYC.gov.

The announcement was made by DoITT Commissioner Cosgrave, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt.

The New York City Police Department receives approximately 11 million 911 calls annually and the 311 Customer Service Center receives approximately 15 million calls each year.

"311 and nyc.gov already have 'any day, anytime, anywhere' accessibility, and today's announcement furthers that commitment," said Commissioner Cosgrave. "By enabling our customers to interact with the City in a way that keeps pace with the technology they are using, such as submitting video to accompany their complaints, we not only keep these channels fresh and innovative, but also help City agencies provide better, more efficient service."

The police operators that staff the 911 call center have been trained to enter a special code in the Police Department's internal communications system every time callers offer photographs or videos in connection with their emergency.

The operators have also been trained to inform callers that a detective will be contacting them directly.

The coded entry into the communications system automatically alerts the Real Time Crime Center and provides the 911 caller's telephone number.

A detective from the Real Time Call Center will personally call the victim or witness and provide a Real Time Crime Center address to which the photograph or video may be sent.

Depending on the case, the images may be shared widely with the public, with police officers on patrol, individual detectives or other law enforcement agencies.

The images may also be used in concert with the Real Time Crime Center's data mining and link analysis capacity to identify and locate suspects as quickly as possible.

The images may also be used to help in assessing and responding to emergencies.

The new 911 capacity comes a month after the NYPD added text messaging to it Crime Stoppers program.

In addition to calling 1-800-577-TIPS, members of the public may now text message crime tips anonymously by texting CRIMES or 274637, and then entering TIP577.

It is a trend that is catching on elsewhere, as well.

Transit police in Washington will launch a pilot program to test the effectiveness of a program allowing mass transit riders to send in tips or report crimes by texting on their BlackBerrys and cell phones, according to a report by the Washington Post.

Consumers in New York City may send up to three photos or videos per service request by logging onto http://nyc.gov from a computer or Web-enabled mobile device.

Customers may also tell their 311 operator they have a photo or video to send and the operator will then direct callers to the appropriate page on http://nyc.gov, through which customers can upload their picture or video files.

Photos or videos can be sent to 311 via nyc.gov for the following types of complaints, with additional complaint types to be added in the coming months: potholes, damaged or missing traffic signs; dirty vacant lot complaints; street and sidewalk complaints; parking meter, bus stop shelter or parking facility complaints; complaints about city parks, such as general maintenance, damaged facilities, graffiti, and animal issues; and damaged, missing or unsanitary public pay telephone complaints.

To report a problem online, customers can log onto http://nyc.gov to directly upload their pictures and videos along with complaint forms.

A wide variety of file formats created by most cell phones are accepted.

Customers may visit http://www.nyc.gov for more information.

This marks the first step in the City's ability to receive pictures and videos from the public.

Next year the City will introduce additional infrastructure to further improve 911 and 311's ability to receive pictures and videos from the public.

"We're thrilled to expand our relationship with NYC.gov by enabling 311 callers to upload photos and videos from their mobile device to assist the city with quality of life complaints," said Nick Taylor, president of Usablenet. "The vast majority of cell phones these days are Web-enabled and equipped with cameras, and this service allows the people of New York to notify the city of everyday issues including potholes, broken parking meters or missing traffic signs."