The NYPD goes mobile

The New York City Police Department has released its own official iOS app, simply called NYPD. It’s available now as a free download for the App Store, even in non-U.S. territories, allowing curious users from outside the Big Apple access to a wealth of crime and law enforcement information.

The app’s main screen is set up to resemble the iOS home screen, with icons representing the various aspects of the app. From the main screen, users are able to view information on wanted criminals, submit tips, watch videos from the various districts’ Crime Stoppers divisions, view breaking news on crimes and law enforcement, view and Like the NYPD’s Facebook page, watch “Inside the NYPD” videos from behind the scenes, view crime statistics, view precinct boundaries on a map and find information on taking the NYPD Police Officers Exam.

The app requires Internet connectivity to use, as the majority of components are updated in real time. Information is not cached locally, however, meaning that it must be reloaded every time the user wishes to view the information. This is fine in the case of information that will be regularly updated such as breaking news or the wanted list, but it would be helpful to users if static information such as the details regarding the NYPD Exam was available offline — as it stands, the app does not work at all without Internet connectivity.

The app has a clear interface but rather slapdash, amateurish presentation. The icons on the main screen are very low resolution, for example, and the scrolling behavior throughout the app is inconsistent — on the “breaking news” screen, for example, it uses a continuous scroll mechanic, while on the “rewards” page snaps by page height — rather unnecessary in that case, as it is only just longer than a page’s height anyway. Perhaps a more serious issue is that on the “wanted” page, text is poorly-formatted and difficult to read, with punctuation often converted to HTML ASCII codes. It is also confined to a tiny window at the base of the screen beneath a larger image of the suspect or victim in the case.

The last few years have seen a lot of civic services making good use of social media — police forces in particular around the world have been making good use of social media to aid with crime prevention and reporting. A dedicated app for a local police force such as the NYPD is a natural next step for technologically-minded precincts, and the NYPD app certainly provides access to a wealth of information at the user’s fingertips, which is very helpful. The quality of the app itself, however, leaves something to be desired — it looks like it was cheaply and hastily thrown together. This has the knock-on effect of not only seeming a little disrespectful to the hard-working employees of the NYPD who provide the information, but also means that some may come to question the credibility of the app’s information. Amateurish presentation and textual errors in an app with ties to a large organization or well-known brand are often telltale signs that the app in question is not an officially-sanctioned product. In this case, it certainly is an official product — the NYPD even promotes it on their site — and thus it’s reasonable to expect something a little more polished.

The NYPD app is not currently ranked on the App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.