Smartphone App Helps Animal Cruelty Investigators

The National Sheriff's Association, with development funding and roll-out assistance from the Humane Society of the United States, has introduced a new feature within a smartphone app designed to aid in the fight against animal cruelty.

National Sheriffs' Association spokeswoman Susan Crow said the new feature within the ICE BlackBox app, which was launched earlier this month, allows users to create a short video record of suspected animal cruelty incidents, as well as to establish GPS coordinates of the alleged crime. Users can then email information directly to the National Law Enforcement Center on Animal Abuse, maintained by National Sheriffs' Association, Crow said.

“They'll determine where to go from there and which agency is best to handle the incident,” she said.

Currently, sheriff's offices in Pinal County, Arizona, and Calhoun County, Alabama, are also testing a compatible portal that allows law enforcement personnel to directly receive videos and other details relative to alleged animal abuse, Crow said.

Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson said his department was the first to test the system and has been using the software and the portal for about five months. He said that, along with a short video, the app gives his deputies basic information such as who sent the call, where the alleged incident took place, and where the sender is currently located.

“We can also send the video right to the deputy who is in the area and is responding,” Amerson said.

After suspects are charged, the app can also be used to help prosecutors prepare their cases, he said.

“Eyewitnesses are sometimes inconsistent,” Amerson said. “The video provides the prosecutor with an eye witness that is (consistent), and if the prosecutor has questions he can play the video again and again.”

Amerson believes app could initially spike the number of unfounded animal cruelty calls received by departments, but the increase is expected, he said. Ultimately, he believes the app will prove useful to both law enforcement personnel and to consumers alike.

“We'd rather get a call about something that turns into nothing than not to get a call at all,” Amerson said. “In the meantime, a lot of people are using their (phone) cameras these days to report crimes, and we just think this is a wonderful tool.”

Crow said that since its launch the list of law enforcement agencies interested in using the app and its related portal is growing..

“It's about to go online in Benton County, Missouri, and the National Sheriff's Association is having talks (about the app) with county's all over the country,” she said.

Crow said the ICE BlackBox app is available for free download for Android and iPhone users.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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