Smartphone app helps Tico cops fight crime

January 11, 2013

The Public Security Ministry and the “Gobierno Digital” (Digital Government) recently unveiled a new smartphone application that lets users report crime as it happens and monitor incidents in various Costa Rican neighborhoods. 

The new app is in Spanish, but a ministry spokeswoman said it will soon be available in English. 

Users of the app also will find tips on how to prevent crime, a list of Costa Rica’s most-wanted criminals and a map of the country’s 750 police stations.

The project, called “Seguridad Pública CR,” is an effort by the Public Security Ministry and Gobierno Digital to help modernize the police force. It was launched on Dec. 21 for the Android smartphone and soon will be available for iPhones.

“We want to be better connected with citizens via easy-to-use technology, including cellphones,” Gobierno Digital Director Alicia Avendaño said. 

According to Avendaño, the project is modeled after ones in place in other cities, including San Francisco, California, and New York, in the United States. Another benefit of using smartphone technology to fight crime is that it helps police develop informant networks. And by monitoring crime as it happens, citizens are better able to protect themselves, Avendaño said. 

“If you see someone driving drunk, you can easily report it, for example, and that report goes directly to the police and all other users of the app. Basically, it’s a collaborative network aimed at [crime] prevention,” Avendaño said. 

According to Gobierno Digital spokeswoman Ilse Chango, user information is kept confidential (the app requires users to register), and only police can access personal information. By mapping crime incidences, police also can track crime trends on a national level and target crime hotspots.

“This project helps Public Security Ministry officials develop a closer relationship with the community, because of the popularity of smartphone technology,” Public Security Vice Minister Celso Gamboa said. “It’s part of a new process to fight crime by using technical and scientific tools.” 

Gamboa said the app also will help police respond more quickly when crime happens. 

Gobierno Digital plans on translating the app to English so that tourists can more easily use the technology, and officials plan on relying on user feedback to improve the program. 

Android users can download the app at: https://play.google.com/store. It will be available for iOS users in coming days at the online Apple Store.

Features of the New App

Tips: The app gives users information on how to help prevent crime in different areas of the country, such as at beaches, in the city, at bus stops and at home. 

Report Crime: Once registered, users can report crime as it happens in real time. The app then uses GPS to guide police to the area. 

Police Station Locations: Users also will find a list of the 750 police stations in the country and their locations. 

Most Wanted: Want to find out which dangerous criminals are on the run? The app has a list with photos of the Judicial Investigation Police’s most wanted fugitives. Users can report sightings of fugitives confidentially via the app. 

Want To Be a Cop? The app has information on how to join the police force, how to register firearms and other tips. 

Crime Map: A map compiles in real time the locations where crime is reported, keeping users constantly informed.

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