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"See Something, Say Something": DPD's Got a Whole New Way to Report "Suspicious Activity"

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Andrea's decided to spend some time at the city council's Public Safety Committee briefing this afternoon, where

she'll learn a little more


iWatch Dallas

, the DPD's just-launched "

virtual crime watch

" that allows the citizenry to type in tips from their computers and cell phones. Says the DPD, "iWatch Dallas focuses on criminal behavior and criminal enterprises that could also indicate a nexus to terrorist activities."

It's a knock-off of the LAPD program, which, in July, was expanded into Los Angeles International Airport to help thwart terror attacks. Counter-terrorism was the chief reason for L.A.'s iWatch program one year ago; so insists the video it debuted in October '09. DPD lists that among the myriad crimes it hopes the program deters: "auto related crimes (Chop Shops, Auto Theft, BMV), prostitution, narcotics, gangs, burglary, criminal fences, swindle and homeland security."

Alas, if you're among those who think the whole "See Something, Say Something" things sounds a bit, well, problematic, you're not alone: FBI agent-turned-ACLU policy counsel Michael German is an outspoken critic of these and other "suspicious reporting activity" programs: "While there is little evidence SAR programs find terrorists, there is plenty of evidence that they are being used to violate the rights of innocent people engaged in innocuous activities like photographing national landmarks and engaging in protected speech." DPD will tell the council today the program doesn't violate civil liberties or "[promote] racial or ethnic profiling."

Update: DPD sent an Official Press Release, which follows. And here's Trey Garrison's take. Read it. Then, look over your shoulder.

"iWatch Dallas"

The Dallas Police Department is excited to announce a new crime tip program, "iWatch Dallas", that will enhance the Department's ability to engage the community in crime prevention efforts. This new tip program is the first in law enforcement to utilize downloadable phone applications to increase the ease for citizens to provide information to the Dallas Police Department that could provide an investigative lead and solve or prevent a crime.

"iWatch Dallas" is a virtual crime watch for Dallas that has the ability to harness 1.3 million citizens by offering internet tip submissions, text tips, 4MB photo upload capability, customized phone applications, and telephone tips.

This increased availability to communicate with the Department is a key part of Chief Brown's "Community Policing 2.0" direction for 2011. The dramatic decreases in crime over the past seven years can only be continued with citizen help and involvement. Citizens are aware of crime in their neighborhoods and that information can help to both solve crime and prevent future crimes.

While there are currently 516 active crime watches in Dallas, "iWatch Dallas" is intended to reach those that are not currently involved in a crime watch. Young people and working parents may not have the time to participate in a crime watch but they have information that could help solve or prevent a crime. Citizens often comment that they have wanted to tell the police in a non-emergency situation, but they did not know who to call. Through the use of text tips and easy-to-use telephone applications, citizens aware of criminal activity can easily submit that information to the police department.

Please note that "iWatch Dallas" should not be used for emergencies when a police response is needed. For an emergency, citizens should continue to call 911. There is no immediate police response to an "iWatch Dallas" tip or submission.

The telephone application is designed to reach 99% of the estimated 5000 various handsets in use today (Symbian 41%; RIM 18%; Android 17%; Apple 14%; All Others 9%; source: Inteloquence, Inc.)

Instructions for telephone downloads are at www.iwatchdallas.net , click on "Apps for your phone". Please note the Apple application has been approved but is currently in review by Apple and is expected to be available by the end of this week.

Modeled after other "See Something, Say Something" campaigns that focus on suspicious behavior related to terrorism, "iWatch Dallas" combines local crime tips with information on homeland security to build awareness and educate the public. Street crime may also have a terrorism nexus, so "iWatch Dallas" information will be routed to the Dallas Police Department Fusion Center where it can be researched and vetted within current Departmental privacy guidelines. If the information justifies additional action, it will be sent to one of the many Departmental operational groups for follow-up.

Vetted tip information will be maintained in a searchable database that will be available to detectives to further enhance the Department's ability to solve criminal cases. Data will only be evaluated on behavior reasonably believed to be related to criminal activity.

The Dallas Police Department appreciates the contributions of local organizations and businesses:

Safer Dallas Better Dallas (www.saferdallas.com ), a longtime partner with the Dallas Police Department in crime fighting efforts, provided critical support to this project through the donation of TipSoft, a leading tip management program; and acquisition of programming capabilities for the unique, customized phone applications provided by iThinQware, a local software and web design company.

The red, white and blue "iWatch Dallas" logo was donated by Inteloquence, Inc. along with the layout and graphics for the attached English and Spanish one sheet handout and assistance with the production of promotional videos.

The firm of Jackson Spalding, an Atlanta-based company with its Dallas office in Thanksgiving Tower, has offered assistance to promote "iWatch Dallas".

The "iWatch Dallas" program will be presented to City of Dallas Public Safety Committee today between 12 noon and 2 pm. Staff and team members will be available following the Public Safety Briefing for media inquiries or interviews.

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