'Stop, thief!' ... There's an app for that
MANCHESTER -- Smartphone apps marketed by a former Manchester ad executive will let you register your valuables and, if you get robbed, submit a report to police within minutes.
"You file a police report digitally," company co-founder Gary O'Neil said last week. "You do that right on your smartphone."
The website, Rejjee.com (pronounced "Reggie"), gives options for Android or Apple apps for people to load pictures and serial numbers of items they value.
And if those items are stolen, people can use a related Mobile Blue app to report the missing items, potentially avoiding a trip to the police station or a visit from police.
The 230-member New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police has endorsed the technology, with its president, Kensington Police Chief Michael J. Sielicki, saying he hopes it will get more people to report crimes and help departments track crime trends in real time.
"A lot of these people (victimized by a crime), they just want a quick report to report it to their insurance company," Sielicki said. "They just want to keep moving. They don't want to stop for a second of doing it the old way of filling out statements."
But the technology won't eliminate police on the beat. "You're still going to need cops to do the investigation," Sielicki said.
Sielicki's is one of 18 New Hampshire police departments that have registered for the effort. That will gain them access to information about all crimes reported through O'Neil's company, including a map indicating crime scenes that could suggest clusters of similar crimes in a specific area.
If your community's police department isn't signed up, the company will still send a PDF of a digital police report to your local department. If your local department is registered, it will receive the report and also have access to all the crimes reported by the apps.
O'Neil, a former principal in the O'Neil, Griffin and Bodi advertising firm who sold his interest in 2005, said the technology doesn't limit reporting of crimes to merely burglaries.
"This is not a 9-1-1, but it functions a little bit like a 9-1-1," he said. "The GPS (through your phone) knows where the closest police department is."
The goal of the app, he said, is not to get your item back.
Police "advised us not to get into the find-it business, and we complied," he said.
O'Neil, who has partnered up with Cambridge entrepreneur Ken Smith, said people can register up to 10 items for free or pay $1.99 per year for an unlimited number.
Many robbers are targeting electronics, jewelry and cash, he said. "Coffee cups, pencils, furniture? Maybe, maybe not," O'Neil said. "Protect what's valuable to you."
O'Neil said the company is working on getting the reports linked directly into the record management systems of local police departments.
State Department of Safety employee Keith Lohmann is program manager for J-One, a criminal justice information system that integrates computer systems and records from state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies.
Lohmann, who has met with O'Neil, said O'Neil's technology connecting directly to the police record management systems would save police the time to type information from the PDF report into its system, but any added benefits to departments would be dependent on how widespread the technology is used among crime victims.
O'Neil said the company hopes to build a $5 million capital valuation in two years, looking toward partnering with or selling to an Internet company.
"It's a little bit of a speculation game," he said.
O'Neil, who owns a 50 percent share, said the goal is to break even this year and make a "modest profit" next year.
The company plans to charge a per-transaction fee to companies marketing coupons to replace items reported stolen.
Macy's and Foot Locker are among a dozen retailers already signed up.
The business plan calls on the company to market the service to large groups, such as companies and gated communities
The company also is working with 12 to 15 paid interns at the University of New Hampshire-Manchester to work on various elements, including how to market the app on college campuses, O'Neil said.