TAZEWELL, Va. —
Getting alerts from and sharing information with the local sheriff’s office is now a click away for users of smart phones, tablets and other electronic devices.
The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday that it was offering a new application, or app, for use on smart phones, a variety of tablets, and other devices. This new app is available through the iPhone App Store and Google Play, said Sheriff Brian Hieatt.
Dubbed the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office App, the new service offers various features.
“This is something that we’re really excited about releasing. This is something we have been working on for several months,” Hieatt said during a press conference. “No other department, municipal or sheriff’s office in Southwest Virginia has an actual sheriff’s office app that people can download on their smart phones, Androids, or iPads. It’s another way we’re putting out there to keep good communications with the public, allow our citizens to know what’s going on in their sheriff’s office, what’s going on in their county, who are people we are looking for, and people who are wanted. It has multiple features.”
Users can link to the sheriff’s office Facebook page and see a listing of wanted people. The app also allows users to receive information.
“This has a couple of really nice features,” Hieatt said. “One of them is an alert system. If we have a major incident or some type of emergency, it will pop up on your phone and your tablet.”
Alerts could include incidents such as escaped inmates, large crashes that are blocking traffic, bomb threats, warnings about storms and other major weather events, and missing persons, he said. People with the app will also be able to send information to the sheriff’s office.
“It also has a feature called submit a tip. And this is where a person from their phone or their tablet can bring it up and submit information they have of something going on in their community,” Hieatt said. “The nice feature with this is you can take a picture and submit it with the tip.”
Tips can be submitted anonymously, said Major Harold Heatley. People will be able to contact sheriff’s office personnel by email or by calling directly. The new app will allow the department to receive more information that could help its investigations.
“We’ve been real successful with what we’ve done on Facebook. We’ve captured a lot of people from tips on Facebook,” Hieatt said. “We want to expand that and jump to another part. They’re moving around and a lot of people don’t have the Internet, but they do have smart phones.”
Approximately 97 percent of the people who have cell phones use smart phones. Not everybody had social media, Heatley said.
“It’s just another way to reach out to the public and make them aware of what’s going on,” he added.
Area people who might hesitate to call the sheriff’s office directly now have another option.
“It gives people a direct link to send information to us,” Hieatt said. “A lot of times people say they don’t want to call and bother us. This way they can send us those anonymous tips.”
The new app is being funded with drug forfeiture money, said Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Lee. One of the county’s largest drug-related cases started when a resident called in a tip. The app could save the county dollars by helping efforts to collect evidence.
“Two eyes are lot less effective than 2,000 eyes,” Lee said.
About $7,500 was spent to have the app created. The estimated annual cost is $2,500, Hieatt said. The sheriff’s office will offer the app for a year to check its effectiveness, and extend the program if there are good results.