Smartphone app helps commuters stay safe

Metra COPS a new way of keeping the peace

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Since launching in April, the Metra COPS app has accumulated over 1,500 downloads and offers a plethora of features that may make your commute or trip on the train safer.

The smartphone app reports safety and security issues, including crimes in progress, disruptive or aggressive behavior, suspicious activity, unattended bags or packages, vandalism, panhandling, or fare evasion, according to Metra's website. 

In December, the Metra Board of Directors approved a five-year, $274,000 contract with ELERTS Corporation to implement an incident reporting system on smartphones for Metra. 

According to Metra public relations, the app has been effective in improving the response time of Metra police officers. 

Since its launch, the app has recorded 196 safety and security issues, six coming from the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway line. It has been most useful in reporting narcotics and marijuana usage and trespassing issues.

Features on the app include the option for the user to send a short video or photo of issues to Metra police. The app can disable the user's camera flash to make sure the recording is discreet. 

Users can also allow the app to track them through GPS and allow dispatchers to send "Be on the Lookout" alerts to warn of potential threats.

Prior to the app's existence, any issues were directed to the Metra police by calling 312-322-2800, but there was a desire to increase communication speed from the user to the police.

The free app can be downloaded by Apple from the App Store. Android users can access the app through Google Play.

Established in 1984, the Metra police are a fully-sworn police department, consisting of 138 officers. With no traditional police stations, the officers can be frequently seen on trains and handle regular police issues, especially around railroad property.

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