Three smartphone apps for law enforcement

By Tim Dees
for PoliceOne.com

Since smartphones such as the iPhone, BlackBerry and the various models running the Android operating system carry as much computing power as a desktop machine of a few years ago, the applications or “apps” written for them are powerful, as well. New and improved apps can give you capabilities on the street you never had before.

LexisNexis Accurint

Criminal justice databases give law enforcement officers access to criminal history and wants information, but often lag behind on information such as current residence, employment, and financial transaction data. That’s where public records data can fill in the gap. LexisNexis’ Accurint product is used by many law enforcement agencies to help locate and track bad guys who try and fly under the radar of the criminal justice system. Subscribers to this service can now access the database through an app for the iPhone and BlackBerry platforms.

Write & Say and Google Translate
There are several foreign language phrasebook and translation apps, most of which confine the user to a set of pre-programmed sentences optimized for travel, business, law enforcement, etc. Those are occasionally useful, but they aren’t much help when you have someone telling you something you can’t understand, or when your need to tell them something falls outside one of the canned passages.

Magic Plan
Magic Plan is an app designed to produce quick floor plans of interiors. When I was playing with it to produce a floor plan of my home’s “great room,” it occurred to me this would be useful for producing diagrams of crime scenes. The app uses the smartphone’s camera and some superimposed dimension lines to record a room’s corners, doorways, windows and openings. You stand in the middle of the room and point the camera at each feature’s boundaries, clicking an onscreen button when intersecting lines are over the corner shown on the display. You go around the room, recording each corner and doorway, then close the loop by re-recording the first corner.

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Do you carry a smartphone with you on duty? Do you recommend any must-have apps?