LOCKPORT — It isn’t Police Chief Steve Abbott’s 6-foot-plus frame that gives him vision of a better future for policing and community involvement, it’s just what’s in his heart and on his mind.
The retired lieutenant and current chief at Lockport Police Department recently purchased a new “app” for the department, called STOPit, that allows anyone with a computer or phone to send LPD anonymous messages, photos and videos of suspicious things they see in their neighborhood. The app can be downloaded free of charge.
“We’ve had a lot of public meetings recently out in the parks and a lot of times what you see and hear from a lot of people is they want to be involved, but they don’t want to be involved,” Abbott said. “What I mean is, they don’t want their name involved or they don’t want to give a statement and that really is a hindrance to us.
“It should be a partnership with the community and residents because it’s all about safety and quality of life. I’m looking for anything and everything that can help us interact with the public better, do our jobs safer and do our jobs with the least amount of force.”
Abbott said the app came to his attention about a month ago, though in a different form, as a “Stop Bullying” app for schools.
“I saw that and said to myself, ‘Wow, that really has some law enforcement applications,’ so I reached out to the company, which is based in New Jersey, and the gentleman I spoke with said, ‘We’re getting a lot of calls from law enforcement.’”
Abbott said he played around with the computer software application and found it a worthy investment, especially since the $3,000 cost could come directly out of LPD’s budget.
“I had it for a week and I then made the decision to pilot the program for a year and if it works out, we’ll put it in the budget next year and we’ll keep going with it,” Abbott said.
Only three LPD administrators currently have access to information sent to the app: Abbott, Patrol Capt. Kendra DiTullio and Capt. Anthony Palumbo, chief of detectives.
“Just because someone makes an accusation, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It just gives you a reasonable suspicion to watch an area,” Abbott said. “It’s a useful tool, but it’s not something you would use if you have an immediate need. If you have an immediate need … call 911.”
STOPit has the potential to empower citizens while helping the police do their job, according to Abbott.
“There’s a lot of people who want to help who just don’t want their name involved,” he said. “There are times when it’s unavoidable, but if we can work in conjunction with the district attorney’s office to make arrests based on evidence that’s sent to us like this, I’m all for that.”
To download the app, go the LPD’s Facebook page and scroll down.