LARGO — In Largo, the days of just calling 911 and anxiously waiting for an officer to arrive are over.
Starting March 22, the Largo Police Department became the first law enforcement agency in the state to use technology from a California firm that will allow the department to send automated follow-up text and email messages to people who call for aid.
“The text and email messages will provide information such as response times for officers, case status updates for reported crimes, victim rights information, crime prevention tips, COVID-19 protocols as well as additional information intended to provide a more thorough and engaging line of communications between the police department and community,” Police Chief Jeff Undestad wrote in a memo in the city manager’s report.
The two-year contract with SPIDR Tech to use its platform comes at a cost of $63,700. That money, however, is coming from a Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding grant program from the Department of Justice.
When the City Commission approved the grant in November, Maj. Ann Starling called the technology “pretty amazing.”
“If you call the police department, it will send out a message to you that says, ‘Hey, we’ve got an officer that’s been dispatched, we’re setting a perimeter, we’re doing certain things,’” she said.
If a period of time goes by and an officer hasn’t been sent to a nonemergency call yet, such as a theft that’s not in progress, the software will send a message that says the officer has been delayed.
After the officer arrives, it will send a text or email with the report number, the type of crime, crime prevention tips, advocacy victim information, etc. If the case is assigned to a detective, the message will tell you who the detective is, what the case status is, or if an arrest has been made.
“It’s really a great communication function for us. It saves us constant calls to the police department,” Starling said.
Furthermore, the software will later send out a survey that will help the department assess its work.
“It actually gives us more transparency with the community and that feedback that we really don’t have right now,” Starling said.
Considering the social unrest in the country this past year, Commissioner John Carroll, a former Largo police chief, said that kind of feedback is important.
“We’ve lived through a variety of different efforts to get feedback from the community,” he said. “Everything from phone calls … to survey cards and none of them work very well. So, this is a huge step forward.”