By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — Got a hot crime tip for police? Maybe you have a question about the winter parking ban. There’s an app for that.
Methuen police have launched a “MyPD” cell phone application with a slew of handy features for city residents. It’s the latest innovation from a department that already boasts a blog and popular social media profiles.
In just seconds, app users can access a list of department phone numbers, read the latest tweets from the @MPDBlotter Twitter account, or submit crime tips. Information about emergencies, weather, wanted persons and sex offenders is also just a swipe and tap away.
The app was officially launched last Thursday. Police Chief Joseph Solomon said user-generated tips about fire hydrants buried during the recent blizzard assisted city officials in assuring they were shoveled out in a timely fashion.
“We can’t be everywhere all the time,” said Solomon. “We can get right into the neighborhoods with this. ... Most people are using social media. It makes it easier for them and it gets us information quicker.”
The app is available for free on iPhone and Android cell phones by searching for “My Police Department” or “MyPD” in the app marketplace. After downloading and launching the app, users enter their state and city and are directed to the police department of their choice. In addition to Methuen, Solomon said North Andover and Haverhill also operate “MyPD” apps.
Solomon said his department’s efforts with social media and other new technology began two years ago but really took off in the fall.
When a rash of burglaries hit Methuen, police used Facebook and Twitter to ask residents to report suspicious activity. A police department Facebook post also proved to be the key in located a missing 12-year-old boy on Oct. 14. And later that month, multiple MPD social media posts about downed trees, wires and utility poles during Superstorm Sandy went viral among city residents.
Solomon said police also used social media to spread information during the recent blizzard.
As chief, Solomon said community outreach has always been a priority for Methuen police. By using social media and the new app, he said the department is simply adapting to new technology.
“We’re finding people are more comfortable sending the message than calling,” said Solomon. “So many people are on their phones so much now, it’s almost their first response to send a text or email.”
Users can send information anonymously or they can include their email address or phone number to receive a response.
Solomon stressed the app should not be used during emergency situations. Residents are still asked to dial 911.