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APD has an app for that

Ashland residents unsure what to do about an abandoned car that’s been sitting in front of their house or who to call about graffiti they spotted can now get answers from the city using a new app.

The Ashland Police Department teamed up with Ashland Fire & Rescue to launch a new mobile app May 11 called “Ashland Oregon Police,” designed to connect emergency-service providers with city residents through their smartphones.

The free app, available for Apple, Android and Windows devices, also allows police and fire officials to send alerts about critical events and safety concerns to people who have the app.

“Right now we can do that through a news release, but that’s dependent on the media picking it up,” Ashland police Chief Tighe O’Meara said. “And we can do it through Facebook, but that’s dependent on people looking at their Facebook page and wandering over to the APD Facebook page.

"And we can do it through Everbridge (Notification), but Everbridge is a really big system that is a very good tool but it’s not the exact right tool for this. And this seems like a really good way for us to push emergency notifications out to people immediately so that they can be updated to critical incidents in real time.”

O’Meara said he learned about the app while attending a chiefs conference in Bend a few weeks ago. A vendor for LogicTreeIT Solutions, which builds mobile apps for law enforcement, schools, youth groups and business and community organizations, was on hand to push the product. O’Meara was impressed with the application’s capabilities and talked to a few other chiefs who already use it. All “raved” about how effective it was, so O’Meara decided to subscribe.

The subscription fee is usually $2,000 a year plus a $500 setup fee, O’Meara said, but because he signed up at the conference, it cost the city $1,860 for the first year and the setup fee was waived.

“Everybody had really positive experience with this application,” O’Meara said. “It’s all the same basic application, but each agency can customize it the way that they want to. We just put our logo on it, our contact information, we customize the buttons any way we want to. So it’s all the same basic platform, but each department makes it uniquely theirs. Everybody I talked to that’s used it just raved about it and said it’s a really good tool, especially in emergency situations.”

Days after its rollout, the app was put to use when a resident used it to report that the Alice Peil walkway near the Plaza had been tagged with graffiti. The report, which included a photo, went straight to APD’s graffiti abatement officer.

“The other really neat feature about this is if we push an emergency notification out through the app, it auto populates our Facebook page, which in turn auto populates our web page,” O’Meara added. “So this really casts a really wide net when we’re trying to get the word out on critical situations.”

The app is straightforward and easy to navigate. Its home screen features an Ashland Police and Fire logo, with nine tabs: Call, Welcome, AFR, Inform us, Notifications, Traffic Alert, Bulletins, Gallery and Directions.

O’Meara said updates such as notifications and traffic alerts will be handled by him and his staff when they decide an update is necessary. For instance, APD could send out a notification that a robbery has just occurred and drop a picture of the suspect in the gallery.

The app has been customized to send reports from the public to the correct agency depending on what they’re reporting. Clicking on the “Inform us” tab, for instance, opens up a menu of options that includes “Code Compliance,” and if you click on that one your message will be emailed directly to Ashland’s code compliance officer.

“Even though the PD are the ones that decided to go down this path, we also decided that there was a lot more that could be done here than just a police offering, so we partnered with Ashland Fire & Rescue to make it a public safety offering,” O’Meara said. “And the platform’s robust enough that we’re even able to bring in several other city departments to really make it a way for the community to stay in touch with the city and get information to the various city departments.”

O’Meara stressed, however, that the app is not a substitute for 911.

“It’s to report that abandoned vehicle that’s been in front of your house for a week, or that problem with the parks equipment, or the pothole on your street that you want to get fixed,” he said. “Those longstanding problems that don’t need an immediate response."

— Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@dailytidings.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.

A screenshot of the new Ashland police and fire mobile app, which allows the city and residents to communicate with each other. [Mail Tribune Photo Illustration/Denise Baratta]