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New app brings California police into 'electronic age'

| Thursday, May 8, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
California Borough's Police Chief Rick Encapera, shows off his departments newest app for smart phones that let you get police information and  updates in real time on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
California Borough's Police Chief Rick Encapera, shows off his departments newest app for smart phones that let you get police information and updates in real time on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.
California Borough's Police Chief Rick Encapera, shows off his departments newest app for smart phones that let you get police information and  updates in real time on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
California Borough's Police Chief Rick Encapera, shows off his departments newest app for smart phones that let you get police information and updates in real time on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

Want to know the latest crime that occurred in California Borough? There's an app for that.

Spearheaded by police Chief Rick Encapera, residents will be able to download an app to their cell phones to see everything from crime alerts to recent arrests by borough police. The app is free to download and use.

“I felt the need to upgrade and get into the electronic age,” Encapera said. “I've been looking for some time. When I found this, they gave me a whole list of county sheriff's departments and other police departments around the country using this. It looks like it's working in other areas.”

For app users, every time California police file charges, it will be posted, as well as a site map that flags locations of every alleged incident. There is a direct link to 911, the U.S. Department of Justice's web page for registered sex offenders and a link to send tips to borough police and to report abandoned vehicles.

“There are some apps with emergency alerts, but this incorporates a whole lot more,” Encapera said. “We'll be able to warn residents in real time and have a wanted section where anyone police are looking for is listed with details of the person's description.

“We still have a lot of information to add on, but I'm liking it so far.”

At the request of Encapera and borough manger Tim Buchanan, council last month approved fronting approximately $1,200 for AppArrest.com to set up the app.

As of Wednesday, anyone who owns an Android device can download the app.

According to Phil Coraci of AppArrest, Android users can go into their app panel and look for the “Play Store” app. Open the play store and click “apps.” In the top search bar, type in “California Borough Police Department” and the app should list for your free download.

Coraci said the app will be available for iPhone users within two to four weeks. The app contains no advertisements and adheres to privacy guidelines set by both Apple and Android, he added.

Encapera said the app can be a tool for police as well.

“Suppose we have a robbery and we're looking for, say, a red Chevy van with two black males and one white male,” he said. “I can load it up right now and everyone gets an immediate alert. If they see the van, they can dial 911 and report it.”

Encapera agreed that with the borough packed with college-aged kids thanks to California University of Pennsylvania, the app is ideal for a police force like his.

“What the beauty of this is, any resident of the borough can apply, as can any former resident,” he said. “University students and their parents can keep in tune with what's going on because, let's face it, kids don't always tell their parents what goes on.”

Encapera said he will spend at least 15 minutes each morning updating criminal complaints for the app. He is also organizing a calendar that lists all borough, university and school district events.

“If someone wants to report something, they'll post it and I'll receive it,” he said. “The best thing is to make the people in the community feel we're working for them, make them feel safe and know we're just a fingertip away and at their disposal.”

Encapera said he knows all the information he receives will not be legitimate, but that it's no different than sifting through tips on a daily basis.

“I got skeptical looks from some of my officers, but people are going to see that the police are busy doing this and this,” he said. “I've got big shoulders. I just think it's something that needs to be done to keep everyone in tune.”

Encapera said he wants to incorporate the app with an active Facebook page. The veteran officer said he's embracing the untested combination of social media and law enforcement.

“I don't get excited about too much, my wife even gets mad that I don't show much emotion, but I see a future in this,” he said. “I mean, look around. There isn't a kid out there that's not staring at their phone right now. This is the 2014 way of keeping people informed.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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