an interview with Chief Benjamin Cotman, Police Chief, Somerton, AZ
The culture within the City of Somerton, Arizona – a City with a population of less than 15,000 residents – often has the community depending on the Police Department for many needs, including safety and general information (i.e., park repairs, potholes, etc.). In a recent interview with the Alliance, Police Chief Benjamin Cotman described that when the City began to experience increased graffiti on public structures throughout their community, they immediately urged residents to report the incidents. As the message to report the graffiti incidents was spread to residents they realized that while people were willing to report the incidents, they were not necessarily enthused to answer many of the other questions dispatchers request. Chief Cotman commented that, “the traditional reporting system required a lot of upfront work and by the time the report would occur the opportunity to share all the details would be missed.”
Then came the app. Prior to 2015 the City had been experimenting with App technology and had yet to find a tool that fit their community’s needs. Chief Cotman discovered Logic Tree in 2015 and rolled out the application for all City departments.
With a multitude of features, the app allows the City to communicate on a variety of topics important to both residents and the City itself. It blends features of information dispatch as well as community feedback. Among the features, the app allows for:
- Bulletins and alerts and reporting in real time
- Residents can report information anonymously
- Police Department can send out “Wanted” notices to all users
- Community Calendar
- Social Media Integration
- Geo tag location enabling
- Self-Branding Capability
- Other entities outside the City, should they purchase the app, can link directly to the City’s app
- Enables two-way communication on non - anonymous tips
- Compatible with all systems (Apple, Android, etc.)
By implementing the new app, pressure was taken off of the dispatchers as it relates to non-emergency reporting, so reporting incidents became easier for residents and less taxing on dispatchers. Chief Cotman commented that the department now receives more pertinent information from the reports of residents and the app has also enabled other departments in the City to report other public notices related to public works and other departments that will be of interest to residents.
Measuring the results
The app has a survey feature which the City plans to use in the future to measure satisfaction and additional needs. The app has currently logged close to 1,000 downloads and been viewed close to 5,000 times within the first 6 months since it was rolled out. Chief Cotman revealed that “this level of activity is measurably higher for resident involvement from past attempts.” Clear evidence that the appetite for mobile consumption continues to grow, even for smaller communities.
Obstacles and beyond
Chief Cotman explained that there is still some concern around app technology among residents; some have expressed concern that the app software is comparable to spyware. The City hopes to create more awareness of the app and to debunk any concerns that are not merited and hopes to see an increase in utilization among residents. However, the City is confident that as more residents have experiences with the app, the more feedback and information they will collect to be able to improve it.
This article continues the Alliance’s look into how cities are using mobile apps to connect with residents. You can read past articles on other communities’ experiences here and here. Has your organization launched a mobile app? How has your experience been? Let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment!