NEW HAVEN --The New Haven Police Department has long taken pride in its efforts to connect to the community through community policing. Now, cops have a way to expand this initiative through the use of smart phones.
Several New Haven neighborhood groups have come together to report crimes and suspicious activities, through a group chat app called WhatsApp. And many of the managers of New Haven's police substations are being invited into these groups for quicker response to crimes, which police say is getting would be crooks a bit paranoid.
"Inside that house it might be somebody watching me put this information out to the police or that person sitting in the car over there might not be listening to the radio. They might be telling somebody what I'm doing," said New Haven police Sgt. John Wolcheski, the Beaver Hills District Manager. "
Residents of the Beaver Hill neighborhood say they're feeling safer these days.
"Far, far safer than I have in a long time and I've lived in that house for 48 years," said Nan Bartow.
"Once I became more aware of things going on that I didn't know about, I felt very good about being on WhatsApp," said Greta Seashore.
Near the intersection of Moreland Hill Rd., near Ellsworth Ave., there was a lot of illegal activity, including drug dealing and prostitution, until the use of WhatsApp spread over the past year.
"Several of us in the neighborhood started taking pictures of license plates, if we could, or describing the car or describing the person," said Bartow.
The Beaver Hill Safety Chat group started with roughly 10 residents and has grown to as many as 500 vetted participants within a year.
"A little over two months ago, my neighbor across the street noticed that someone was sitting in her car, had broken in. She posted it on the chat, the location of where the person was running from," said Mendy Katz, the Founder of the Beaver Hill group, says police were monitoring and caught the suspect within 5 blocks.
"This took five minutes to do," said Wolcheski. "It was real-time information. We didn't have to worry about something getting lost between the caller, the dispatcher and the officer."
WhatsApp can reach a limitless number of people and you don't use mobile data.
"People feel like someone cares, that the police department loves the community and the community loves the Police Department, literally," said Katz. "We feel so much respect for them, more than ever."