Tech-savvy Southeast Missouri residents now have a new communications tool to help them keep up on happenings in area sheriffs' departments.
Sheriffs in Perry and Cape Girardeau counties on Wednesday announced the release of free Android operating system applications for smartphones that will alert users to developing incidents, but also allow users to check jail records, find mug shots of people booked into the jail, or find contacts within departments.
An iPhone version of the app is in development and should be available in about a month, Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan said.
"We've had ours for a couple of weeks," Jordan said. "But we didn't want to tell the public about it until we tweaked it enough."
Jordan said Cape Girardeau and Perry were among the first counties to receive the app.
The app developers were involved with the National Victim Notification Network, Jordan said. According to its website, the service allows crime victims to obtain timely information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders. The service offers victims and other concerned citizens the options to be notified by phone, email or text messages when an offender's custody status changes.
"It's a work in progress," Perry County Sheriff Gary Schaaf said. "I think most of the sheriffs' offices have signed up for it."
Schaaf said that there have been issues with uploads of some photos into the system, but the bugs are being worked out.
Emergency personnel say the benefits of the public downloading the app are numerous.
"Push notifications are emerging in this," Jordan said. "The dangerous situation we had with the shootout [in Jackson] a week and a half ago, we would have been able to put a push notification out. It would have said, 'If you're in the area, seek shelter immediately. If you're not there, stay away.'"
Perryville and Perry County already subscribe to Nixle, a program that sends text-message alerts and advisories to people who sign up for the service, Schaaf said.
Jordan said he is looking forward to an upgrade for the app be coming available soon. The change in the app would include a portion that shows where registered sex offenders live.
"It will be associated with Google Maps," he said. "It will have a list of the county's most-wanted as well."
The app will be paid for by advertisers, Jordan said. Advertisers will pay the developer for their ads, he said.
If the app user were to click on one of the people in the jail roster, a page with information about the person would come up. At the bottom of the screen there would be advertisements for lawyers or for bail bonds.
"They'll sell an ad to an attorney or bail bondsman," Jordan said. "You click on that ad and you're calling them."