Arlington Hts. police: App partnership could lower crime
Walking through a dark parking garage late at night or jogging in the predawn hours can put people on edge, but a Chicago app company's partnership with local police puts a panic button in every users' pocket -- via their cellphone.
The Arlington Heights Police Department is one of the first suburban agencies to partner with Lifeline Response, an app founded by village resident Peter Cahill.
During a demonstration for suburban police leaders on Monday, Cahill and his team explained why other communities should get on board.
"The only true way to prevent assaults is at the moment of impact," Cahill said.
To isolate that moment, an app user who feels threatened can start the app and place a thumb on his or her phone. If the thumb is removed for any reason, a loud alarm will go off and a call center will dial the user's phone to ask if the person is OK, Cahill said.
If the user doesn't answer, the app will notify police to respond to a possible crime with the GPS location of the phone in question. Anyone who does respond will be required to enter a password to deactivate the alarm and call off the response.
"We believe this app has the potential to reduce crime and allow people to report crime when they cannot call 911," Arlington Heights Police Cpt. Mike Hernandez said.
Officials from the company and Arlington Heights won't say how much money is involved in the partnership, but through the deal, they say police will get quarterly reports showing where people are using the app. That could highlight areas where residents don't feel safe and more patrols are needed.
Users also can set a hands-free timer and if they don't deactivate it before time runs out, the alarm will sound.
Hernandez used the example of people who may be nervous about jogging near Lake Arlington where there have been three attacks on female runners in the past 18 months.
Arlington Heights also will have access to a command center where app users can anonymously notify them of nonemergency issues, such as traffic backups, downed power lines or other disturbances, without calling 911.
Officers from Palatine, Elk Grove, Crystal Lake, Lake Zurich and other departments attended Monday's demonstration to learn more about the app.
"It's an interesting concept," said Lake Zurich Deputy Chief Kevin Finlon. "It could make responses more efficient and flow resources where they are most needed. It's always nice to have another avenue to report what's going on in the community." Finlon said Lake Zurich will have to gather more information before deciding if they will also partner with Lifeline.
Meanwhile, Arlington Heights will be promoting the app to residents via its website and social media. Lifeline Response costs $4.99 per month and can be downloaded in mobile app stores.
"We think this app will allow people to feel a little safer," Hernandez said. "It's a great tool as part of an overall safety plan."