Have you ever noticed something suspicious that didn’t warrant a call to 911? Have you ever wanted to send a photo, video or anonymous tip to law enforcement without knowing how?
As usual, there’s an app for that.
Sarasota’s Kevin Angell created the See It, Say It, Send It app to give citizens and police a location-based two-way form of communication that can aid investigations, keep law enforcement aware of suspicious activity and notify people in the area about criminal activity. The app is used by law enforcement agencies, each of which pays a subscription fee as low as $25 per month, in 25 states. Even if someone lives in a jurisdiction that doesn’t use the app, See It, Say It, Send It can send information to any sheriff’s office.
Angell began formulating his idea for the app after the Las Vegas mass shooting of 2017. He was doing body camera consultation at the time, and one of his friends was a sergeant in the unit that was investigating the shooting.
“They had hundreds of hours of video and several thousand images, but everybody scattered after this happened,” Angell said. “So he said it's really hard to gather that data.”
The FBI and Las Vegas police department both have email addresses to which people can send tips or evidence, and there’s an anonymous tip phone number, but many of the people who went home after the shooting had no way of knowing about these.
On the flight home, Angell started thinking. If your phone knows where you are, then it knows what jurisdiction you’re in. So he wanted to create an app through which users could send tips, pictures and video to local law enforcement as determined by location services. And he wanted to make it a two-way communication, so that people who have the app could receive notifications if they pass through the area of an active investigation.
See It, Say It, Send It was born.
Angell said the app shouldn’t be used as a replacement for 911.
“This is more for you just get that feeling,” Angell said. “You get that hair that raises on the back of your neck. You think something’s suspicious. You don't necessarily know if it rises to the level of calling 911.”
The app can, however, supplement 911 because pictures and video obviously can’t be submitted through a phone call. It also gives law enforcement a convenient avenue for follow-up questions, especially in the case of anonymous tips.
An East Coast Florida town has been putting the app to use for a couple years now. Cocoa Police Department public information officer Yvonne Martinez said the app has been especially useful for sending out targeted information in the form of cell phone notifications.
Recently, the department used the app during an active shooter situation to send out a reverse 911 telling people who were located within the neighborhood to take shelter or avoid the area. It took all of two minutes to get the information out to anyone who has the app.
It can also be used to inform the public about traffic issues or natural emergencies like hurricanes. Martinez said the department often receives tips through the app from citizens, who can also choose to submit them anonymously.
“I would just encourage residents here or wherever they are to download the app,” Martinez said. “It's very useful. And you just don't know. I mean, it's there. You don't have to pay attention to it until it makes contact with you.”