Borough board backs deal for iWatch app

NAUGATUCK — Residents and some students within the next two months will be able to download a smartphone application to anonymously report information, including photos and videos, related to crimes and bullying.

“The world’s become very technology-based and this is just one more way for us to try to keep up with the times,” said Lt. Robert Harrison of the Naugatuck Police Department.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses approved a one-year agreement Tuesday night with iThinQware, the company that produces the iWatch application.

The licensing and advertising needed to link the application to the police department, Naugatuck High School, City Hill Middle school and the public works department will cost at least $7,000, but Harrison said there was enough money in the police department’s technology maintenance account this year to cover the cost.

Renewals in subsequent years will cost at least $6,000, according to Harrison and Alan Merly, information technology director for the school board.

The application, available for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry phones, allows users to submit anonymous tips in the form of phone calls, text messages, e-mails, photos or videos to borough agencies.

Any phone with the ability to send a text message can submit tips, which can also be keyed into a website from a computer or tablet. The information travels to borough departments via an outside server, which masks the tipster’s phone number or e-mail address, Harrison said.

Students who are being bullied will be able to report incidents anonymously to school officials, Merly said. Residents could also use the application to send reports about problems such as graffiti and broken street lights.

Bridgeport began using the application late last year. Police and sheriffs in Dallas, Philadelphia and Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, also use the application.

Harrison said the application has generated helpful tips related to murder cases in some cities. The borough does not see as many murders, but the application could also assist in less serious investigations such as larceny and vandalism, Harrison said.

Dan Elliott, the founder of iThinQware, was inspired to create the application after he was robbed at gunpoint and his brother’s fiancée was murdered.

The borough board approved the agreement 7-3, with Burgesses Ronald San Angelo, Robert Burns and Patrick Scully voting against it.

San Angelo said he would have liked to see statistics from cities that use the application to prove it is producing effective tips, but others said the benefits might not be easily quantified.

“I think sometimes, no pun intended, you have to pull the trigger,” Burgess Catherine Ernsky said.