BLOOMFIELD — The Bloomfield Police Department is continuing its efforts to engage with citizens as it prepares to launch a new smartphone app designed to encourage people to submit anonymous tips, photos and video related to criminal activity.
The department has been beta-testing the Stop!t anonymous reporting app for about a month with 52 users, according to administrative supervisor Suzanne Moore.
The app allows citizens to anonymously submit incident reports using text, video and/or photos of suspicious people or behavior.
It also has a two-way messaging system that allows users to speak in real time to help officers gather more information on a report.
“We really wanted to focus on our relationship with the community,” Bloomfield interim Chief Randon Matthews said.
The introduction of the app is part of the department’s TOGETHER initiative, which includes the reintroduction of its neighborhood watch program.
Matthews said it was important to him to implement the initiative as the number of officers in the department has decreased in recent months. Bloomfield police had 19 officers in May and now has just 14.
Matthews expects three more officers to leave soon, which could leave the department with only 11 officers as soon as next month.
He said a similar exodus occurred when former Bloomfield Chief Mike Kovacs left and Randy Foster, who recently retired, took over as chief.
The new smartphone app service costs about $1,800 a year from Stop!t Solutions, which is based in Holmdel, New Jersey, but that money won’t be coming out of the department’s budget. The cost of the service was paid by a local business and citizen.
“We have an amazing community,” Matthews said.
Moore hopes citizens will be more willing to share information with officers, given the fact that the app allows them to remain anonymous. The app only requires that the user enter the 87413 zip code to send incident reports and does not require any personal information.
Information submitted through the app already has led to at least one felony arrest.
Charie Fulton is accused of two counts of vehicle theft and a count of retaining stolen property, according to court records.
Police identified a victim’s stolen vehicle from Texas from a photo sent through the app, Moore said. An officer spotted the vehicle and followed it to a residence along County Road 5063 southwest of Bloomfield.
Fulton allegedly stole the Texas victim’s pickup truck, along with a silver Chevy Silverado with a New Mexico license plate, according to a Bloomfield police Facebook post.
Sarah Field, Fulton’s public defender, said her client’s case is in the preliminary stage, and she didn’t know if the app was a viable source of information in regard to his arrest.
The Bloomfield Police Department is not the only local law enforcement agency making use of digital technology. The Farmington Police Department has an app that allows access to the department’s social media platforms, its website and its blog, and to submit tips to San Juan County Crime Stoppers.
Georgette Allen, Farmington police spokesperson, said the app also allows police to push notifications for emergency alerts. It does not allow users to submit photos or videos.
Both apps are available through the Apple App Store and Google Play.
The Bloomfield police app will be launched during Monday’s Bloomfield Neighborhood Watch meeting. It is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. at the Bloomfield Cultural Center at 333 S. First. St.