Now available for download on your smartphone: an official Chattanooga Police Department application.
The app is the latest in a series of technological additions made to the department's services over the last several years, and department leaders hope it will improve transparency and accessibility.
"We recognize people communicate through different means; and we are now offering a new way for the people we serve to reach us, their police department," police Chief David Roddy said at a news conference Friday morning.
Anyone with a smartphone can download the free mobile app from either the Android marketplace or the Apple app store to gain access to a suite of resources Roddy said can help both the public and the police department solve everything from noise complaints to homicides.
"Some of the app's features include neighborhood crime tracking, real-time emergency notification and access to [Chattanooga Police] social media feeds," he said. "The best feature on the app, though, is that users can help the police solve and even prevent crime in their neighborhoods by sending tips to [police] through the app."
"Essentially, app users are extra eyes on the streets for their police department."
Tipsters now can relay whatever information they believe is relevant to their complaint, including photos, and do so anonymously. Lt. John Chambers, the officer in charge of data, analytics and technology at the Chattanooga Police Department, said tips will be curated and communicated to departments that can handle each issue most effectively.
"When a citizen submits a tip, currently the way it is set up, members of our intelligence unit will receive those tips. They'll vet those tips to decide who needs that information," he said. "It may go to a member of our investigative teams, or it could go to zone commanders just based on the nature of the tip."
Analysts also will be able to communicate directly with tipsters in real time to get more information or talk through the complaint with residents, a first for the department.
"We're very excited about the launch of this mobile app because it allows us a never-before-possessed capability to communicate two-way and in real time with our citizens," Chambers said. "This gives us the ability to have an open dialogue with community members regardless of what the circumstances [are] or what the tip is."
Chambers also said the software, developed in partnership with Mobile-PD, will be improved and built upon every few months. The first such addition will come in a few weeks when neighborhood crime mapping will be added, allowing residents to see what service calls police officers have made recently in their area, he said.
However, Roddy cautioned the public to remember that the app is no replacement for calling 911. He said it's a useful platform for residents looking to address long-standing issues or provide useful information to police, but people should still call in emergency situations.
"If you have a direct emergency, if you feel that your safety is being compromised, if you have a fear, if you feel that you are in danger, call 911," he said. "That is the most direct way to get your police officers to respond to help you."
"The app is a way to get other information to us so that we can address those other concerns outside of an emergency situation."
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.