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Syracuse police launch new tips app, Walsh defends hiring more officers despite financial woes

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, First Dep. Chief Joe Cecile and Dep. Mayor Sharon Owens.

Smartphone users can download a new app to receive public safety alerts from the Syracuse Police Department. The app has more features than a previous version.

Syracuse police launched a smartphone app two years ago that allowed users to anonymously send police tips on criminal activity. Now, the new SPDTips App from Tip411  (available for Android and Apple devices) sends notifications and crime alerts to users on arrests and ongoing investigations in the city. First Dep. Chief Joe Cecile said users can respond to alerts by sending anonymous tips to police that can include pictures.

"This alert going on will have multiple benefits," Cecile said. "First, you’re going to have neighbors become more aware of what’s going on, not just for their own house but their neighbors on either side of them. Secondly, they may become more aware about securing their windows during this time frame or all the time when they’re not in their home.”

Law enforcement can also engage in a dialogue with users. 

“The police are not ubiquitous," Cecile said. "We try very hard to be everywhere at the same time but we’re not going to be. The folks that can come closest to that are the residents. These are all eyes and ears of folks that actually have an intimate knowledge of the neighborhood. Not just eyes and ears, but an intimate knowledge of what’s suspicious and what isn’t.”

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said the app is not a replacement for 911, but a convenient tool for community engagement.

"You may notice a suspicious vehicle in your neighborhood," Walsh said. "You may have a vacant house in your neighborhood and you notice some suspicious activity around there. I've had those instances myself."

And police say tips work. Last year, the department received more than 1,200 tips that helped solve crimes from larcenies to homicides.

Hiring more police

Walsh defended his decision to hire a new class of 25-30 police officers this spring, despite a report from his transition team warning about the city’s financial woes.

“Public safety is our biggest priority," Walsh said. "The officers that we are hiring are in the budget. They were included in the previous year’s budget. We are following through with that commitment. We will be looking very closely at the budget and future classes.”

Homicides in the city dropped significantly in 2017, down to 21, from a historic high the previous year. The total number of crimes in 2016 were at a five year low.

Walsh said his administration is also trying to get public input on the search for a new police chief. Current Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler is stepping down at the end of the year.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.