SAN FRANCISCO — State and local law enforcement officials in California said on Monday that they hope a new mobile application will help officers on the street fight crime by using their smartphones.
Attorney General Kamala Harris, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Police Chief Greg Suhr jointly announced Monday that about 600 San Francisco police officers have used a smartphone application called JusticeMobile that allows them to look up suspects’ statewide criminal records while they are out on patrol.
Plans call for about 1,600 officers in San Francisco to receive an expanded version of the app that will include federal criminal records. More than 3,600 Los Angeles police officers will soon receive the application, which was created by the attorney general’s office and several San Francisco city departments using federal, state and local funds.
New York City police began testing a similar app to access its department’s criminal records earlier this year. But Harris, Lee and Suhr said California is the only state in the country where officers will have access to statewide criminal records.
Harris calls the new technology transformative as it allows officers on the streets the immediacy to access criminal justice information on a potential suspect right from their phones, instead of calling or radioing back to their stations.
“It’s letting that officer know if that person they are contacting is a parolee; it’s letting that officer know if that person they are contacting is legally prohibited from using a handgun or perhaps is a felon,” Harris said. “The officer on the street, on their beat, will now have the ability through their smartphone, to get that information in real-time.
“Every law enforcement professional will tell you, time matters.”
Lee said the app comes just as San Francisco has seen a 40 percent decrease in homicides and a 20 percent drop in shootings this year when compared to last year. He knocked on a wooden podium, acknowledging that other Bay Area cities, including Oakland and San Jose, are grappling with high violent crime rates.
“We say while we are temporarily in a good place, we need to use this opportunity to excel in every area and today, the area is about smartphones, getting good information into the hands of officers so that they can respond even better with a lot more context than they ever had before in the field when it’s necessary,” Lee said.
Suhr said the app has rigorous security standards as officers will have to go through multiple verifications to use it. Data on the app can be erased remotely if the phone is lost or stolen.
Suhr said the app “will soon be the industry standard.”
The chief said plans for the app were two years in the making as the department had initially considered using tablets. But officers favored smartphones and many will use Samsung Galaxy smartphones, Suhr said.
Harris said she has seen success with the app as special agents have used JusticeMobile on their iPads to screen potential gun buyers during weekend gun shows across the state by checking their names on various local, state and federal databases.
“It has allowed them to multiply the number they’ve contacted to see if those people are in any way engaged in crime,” Harris said. “This has allowed us to be smart on crime and that means solving crime and reducing crime.”