By some estimates, 49.7% of people in the United States have a smartphone and by 2014, that number could rise to over 70%. As a result of the proliferation of smartphones, the app market has exploded. Consumers would rather click on an app on their phone or tablet to access content specifically designed for their device, rather than accessing a Web site which may be much slower and lack some of the mobile functionality. Estimates vary but many reports suggest there are over 500,000 apps for the Android and over 300,000 apps for the iPhone. In light of these staggering statistics, should your department consider getting an app and if you decide to, what are your options?
First, you must decide if an app is right for your department. In making this decision, consideration must be given to smartphone and tablet usage in your community, how active your community is with social media and how active your department is with social media. Another item to consider is how often the content of the department website is updated? This is important if the app is going to point people back to your Web site. Although there are many other factors to consider, these are the most important.
Once you make the decision to get an app for your department, you then have two choices - pay for the design of the department app or find a commercial app already available that you can use. Let’s examine both options.
An app designed specifically for your department offers a number of advantages. The app can be designed according to the needs of your department and community, offers greater flexibility, can be updated as needed, and can be a source of pride for your department. The downside of designing your own app is the cost. Professional apps with many of the features popular with consumers can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Most police departments can’t afford this cost.
The second option is to find a commercially produced app that fits the needs of your department. This is the route I took at the Dunwoody Police Department. Our department is very active with social media. Our community is very active as well. An app was a natural fit for our department. However, we did not have the funds to design our own app. Instead, we chose a company that already had a commercially available app which can be used by different law enforcement agencies across the country while still providing great functionality for our community. The app is available free to our citizens and provides one point mobile access to our Web site
, Facebook account
, Twitter account
, department information, tip line, and department contacts. The app gives our citizen the ability to commend our staff, submit questions and feedback and provides additional features as well. We have received positive feedback from the community about the app. We have also received a number of commendations, tips, and assorted information through the app. One of the best features of the app is the cost. It is very reasonable and is based on population. For more information about the app we use, go to www.dunwoodypolice.com