City officials gave police chief permission to enter an agreement with an app designed to handle non-emergency reports to law enforcement.

Ridgeland Police Chief John Neal told the Mayor and Board of Aldermen that Relay, an Indiana-based phone application, will allow citizens to report non-emergency issues directly from their phone.

“This is for the ‘I hate to bother you’ calls we get so frequently,” Neal said. “People can send in messages or pictures and officers in the area will get a message on their app and they can react or investigate as needed.”

Neal said that they had a situation recently that fits what Relay is designed to address where a mysterious car was parked at a business overnight for several days. It turned out a man was sleeping there.

The app costs the city an annual subscription. Neal said the first year is $7,500 but will increase to $9,500 per year after the first year.

Mayor Gene McGee asked if this application was implemented anywhere else in the state.

“We will be the first in the state if the board decides to approve this,” Neal said.

Relay was first implemented by the police department in Fisher, Ind. A spokesperson for the app said that they are currently operating with five agencies in Indiana and one in Wisconsin.

He went on to say that Relay is a national platform that has no jurisdictional boundaries from the citizen side and will automatically connect users with the closest law enforcement agency to their reported incident. 

"We have had incidents reported from Seattle all the way to Massachusetts," He said.

Neal said the money would come from donated funds and was already budgeted for the 2020 Fiscal Year.

“This is another way for us to reach out and get our citizens engaged,” Neal said.

Alderman-at-Large D.I. Smith said he was hesitant, noting the tendency for apps to be a way to collect user data to be sold.

“Knowing that, I know it makes me conservative when I download an app to my phone,” Smith said.

Neal said that he did not think the app collected data for sale, though he would double-check on that and resubmit the item for board approval if he found anything concerning.

“It is a great sounding app and I think it would encourage more people to get involved,” Smith said.

In other RPD-related action:

•    Approved a training reimbursement for a seminar attended by Chief Neal.

•    Approved a budget transfer of $1,805.70 to put a radio in the department’s recently acquired Polaris Ranger.