Lompoc police are turning our handheld entertainment and communication devices into a crime-fighting tool, one that’s had a significant impact on how law enforcement investigates domestic violence.
The department recently received a tip through the Lompoc police app’s reporting feature that led them to a home where a woman was being assaulted.
"There were obvious signs of a recent struggle that led officers to believe she was involved in some kind of recent dispute," Lompoc Police Cpl. Charles Scott said.
The woman had a black eye, according to Sgt. Kevin Martin, and police arrested the man who assaulted her.
"He was charged with a felony," Sgt. Martin said.
The investigation culminated from a tip sent in by an anonymous person who heard the violent scene unfold.
"When you call 911, they ask who you are, your address, phone number," said Sgt. Martin. "I think for some people, they want to do the right thing but they don’t want to get tied up into other people’s drama, so anonymity is given to them reporting through the app."
The app, which is used by police departments across the country and customized for LPD, has been in use for about two years and is free to download.
It takes seconds to open the app, pull up the reporting feature and send in a tip. Dispatch will receive the tip and assign the report to an officer.
"The app has been huge, just being able to freely give info without having to give your name or even your relationship with the call," said Cpl. Scott. "We’ve definitely seen an increase in reports come through the app, especially with domestic violence recently."
Veronica Cubillo, a victim’s advocate at Domestic Violence Solutions in Santa Maria, said anonymity is key for victims and witnesses whose legal status is in question.
"Most of the victims believe that because of their legal status, they can’t make a report or there will be some kind of legal repercussion in the end because they made a report," said Cubillo.
The app also includes resources for victims, including contact information for help centers like Domestic Violence Solutions.
Lompoc police receive about 30 to 40 tips through the app each month. It’s a trail of cyber breadcrumbs that can help them stop crime and even save lives.
Martin said the app cannot replace 911 but can connect law enforcement — with tips from the community and notices disseminated to the public — in just a matter of clicks.
"We’ve had 15,000 people download that and say a majority are in the community," said Sgt. Martin. "That’s 15,000 pairs of eyes helping the police do a better job of policing the community."