New app allows users to livestream suspicious activity to law enforcement

A new app can turn your phone into a live surveillance camera. (WTOV)

The next generation of neighborhood crime watch is coming to the Ohio Valley.

Smartphones are used for everything these days, and now a new app can turn your phone into a live surveillance camera. That means any suspicious activity you record is sent directly to law enforcement and your emergency contacts, and it is stored as evidence. This technology isn't just popping up in big cities; it's right here at home.

Here's a scenario we all know far too well. It's late at night and you find yourself alone in a parking lot walking to your car.

Then, you hear someone behind you. Fear sets in.

But now Brooke County is taking an extra step to calm that fear and keep an eye on you, all through a mobile app.

Franco Pinacchio with the Hooverson Heights crime watch was the first person to introduce the use of the ICE Blackbox app to the Brooke County community.

"The app can be used by adults and by children," Pinacchio said. "As far as adults, women who may be followed out of a store or gym, they can do something. So it's really a fight against crime in our community."

Pinacchio was a police officer in Wintersville and Wellsville for 13 years. He now spends time patrolling the Hooverson Heights area in a newly purchased and restored police cruiser.

He says the app will make looking for any suspicious activity easier.

"A crime watch member can monitor the app or the program on their laptop which will be in our mobile patrol vehicle," Pinacchio said.

So here's how it works. When you feel threatened or see suspicious activity near you, all you do is open the ICE Blackbox app and press the record button. It then captures live video and audio and tracks your precise GPS location. That information is then sent directly to law enforcement and neighborhood watch captains like Pinacchio to view in real time.

So now the things that go bump in the night can all be caught on camera, and users cannot delete, edit or change recordings. That's something Larry Palmer, who is running unopposed for Brooke County sheriff, believes will be a helpful tool when he takes office January 2017.

"There's a lot of things that need to be done that I want to do in the county. The first thing I want to do is reach out to all our communities and regain a law enforcement and community relationship in order for us to combat crime," Palmer said.

The soon-to-be sheriff says he plans to implement the new technology to keep the county safer.

"The app does the work for the complainant now. So in the event they give a wrong description or a wrong colored shirt, the app will speak for itself and show the dispatcher exactly what the officers need to look for," Palmer said.

And now with the extra set of the eyes and ears provided by the Hooverson Heights countless volunteers and Palmer and Pinacchio utilizing the app, Brooke County could soon become a safer place to live, one smartphone at a time.

"I have seen women running down May Road in their bedclothes and I have called Brooke County and they have checked it out," said Susie and Sarah Hunter, crime watch volunteers.

"It's a good tool for the community to catch those committing crimes in the act," Palmer said.

"It's just having someone on the other end watching and helping you out," Pinacchio said.

"My opinion is, if it can save one life or solve one crime, it's worth it," Palmer said.

Currently, the app only works in the Hooverson Heights area, but Larry Palmer hopes to have the app up and running all throughout Brooke County sometime in 2017.

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