Yes, smartphones can f ight crime - and do it well too

Published: Wednesday | January 1, 2014 Comments 0
Fireworks explode over the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House during New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney, Australia, yesterday. - AP
Fireworks explode over the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House during New Year's Eve celebrations in Sydney, Australia, yesterday. - AP

THE EDITOR, Sir:

It is an excellent proposal by the ministry of national security to develop a smartphone application as a new medium through which citizens can opt to report a crime. This would include the option to upload a picture or video as corroboration. The proposed application is supposed to have a panic button, a feature that calls into question feasibility, given the many constraints of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). Nevertheless, the app, in and of itself, is a strong platform to build for future, more sophisticated features.

First and foremost, for the application to work at maximum efficiency, geo-tagging must be mandatory to increase accurate response. Geo-tagging is a feature of smartphones that enables a phone-generated address to be attached to any media, such as photo or videos. This is necessary as sometimes persons giving information may not give accurate directions to the authorities. This will also mitigate against persons who attempt to misuse the application to misinform the police and ultimately abuse the system.

To make the application even greater, there could also be an alert feature which would be a channel through which the JCF releases updates; broadcasts names, images and descriptions of persons of interest; a public warning or even just a success story of the JCF that will serve as motivation for uploaders to continue sending information to the authorities. Along with the long list of features that the application will bring, this would be one of the most important as, while on the go, users would be able to browse to see the faces of wanted criminals at any time which, unlike the television and radio that only deliver a few seconds of information about the persons in question, provided real-time information.

not foolproof

While the proposed initiative will go a very far way in helping the police to respond to crime, they must not find complete solace in any success of the application as it is more on the reactive side than proactive. The police should still try to work assiduously to prevent any criminal activity. Furthermore, the application's existence should in no way replace 119 or make it less efficient, bearing in mind the fact that there are still persons who do not own a smartphone, and for some who do, they do not even attempt to use the smart features of the phone. All media should instead work in tandem to provide better policing for the citizens of Jamaica.

Finally, to complement the application and any materials transmitted through it, the minister of national security and the minister of justice should ensure specific pieces of legislation are passed to render the materials admissible in court, as it would be senseless for citizens to be capturing images and videos that are inadmissible.

Romaro Scott

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