Improved iWatch Dallas app makes it easier for residents to report crimes to Dallas PD

The Dallas Police Department is improving their crime reporting technology with the launch of a re-designed app.

iWatch Dallas first hit app stores in 2009, but software designers say it became clear a major overhaul was needed.

Several years ago, the developer and DPD realized the existing app needed a total re-write.

On Thursday, they unveiled that updated app.

Police hope it's a resource for those who don't want to be seen talking to police at a crime scene, or those who don't want to wait around to talk to officers.

But they are cautioning the public that the app is not a replacement for 911.

The new iWatch app was developed by Steve Elliott, who knows the toll of violent crime. His fiancé, Bridget Burnadette Phillips, was murdered in Baltimore 30 years ago.

“In 1989, I was engaged to that young lady,” Elliott said. “She was brutally murdered in her apartment and the crime has never been solved. I became committed to preventing other people from becoming me.”

Elliott and Dallas PD set out to revamp the existing app, which was downloaded about 16,000 times since 2009.

Developers have said the new version has an easier to use interface.

Like the old version, users can remain anonymous while giving tips to police and uploading photos and video.

But the new version also allows users to share their GPS location if they want, and start a live chat with law enforcement.

“We don't want folks to rely on this in a 911 emergency situation, but if they see a suspicious event, sometimes your few words or your paragraph aren't enough to sum up what you see, and a trained detective can help pull more information,” Dallas PD Lt. James Lewis said.

DPD Police Chief Renee Hall said that tips will go to the investigative unit, patrol, or an individual for follow up.

How will an understaffed DPD handle more leads?

“This allows us to utilize the officers that we have more effectively,” Lt. Lewis added. “If we know exactly what it is you are seeing out there, and we can chat back and forth and you're sending us pictures, then we are going to send the right number of officers and it allows us to be more efficient with our resources.”

In a time of eroding public trust in law enforcement, getting information to police is as important as what they do with it.

“We want to connect with you. We want to know what you see that you believe we need to take action on. And be able to respond to you and let you know what's going on with that,” Lt. Lewis explained. “It's critically important to us, it's critically important to our relationship with the community.”

The app developer said it will continue to change and improve over time.

The iWatch Dallas app is free and available now in app stores.