A free, three-year pilot program involving a smartphone application designed to help prevent crime, such as school shootings, and improve law enforcement response times to emergency situations is not coming to Moscow.

After a couple failed motions and almost two hours of discussion Monday night, the Moscow City Council rejected the project.

Moscow Police Chief James Fry said Lilian Alessa, co-director of the University of Idaho Center for Resilient Communities, approached him and Moscow School District Superintendent Greg Bailey to be a part of the neighborhood watch pilot program - Advanced Alert Distributed Reporting System - after a threat against Moscow schools in March.

"As we continue to move through these challenging times, we have to continue to look outside of the box and outside what we think is normal to provide that safety," Fry said.

Fry said he would like to see the program implemented.

Alessa said the system is designed to keep children safe by preventing violent incidents, such as school shootings, from happening. She said it can also be used in medical emergencies.

"The whole idea here is to take a neighborhood watch and to accelerate it using technology," Alessa said.

Moscow City Councilor Kathryn Bonzo moved to approve the pilot project between Kestrel Technology Group and the city, and Councilor Jim Boland seconded the motion.

But when it came to vote, Councilors Brandy Sullivan, Gina Taruscio and Anne Zabala voted against the motion. Councilor Art Bettge was absent.

Taruscio said the program could be very divisive.

"I can see it very clearly for the safety of the school," Taruscio said. "I totally see that. I do not agree with it at the community (level). I don't think it fits our community."

Boland mentioned this technology could have been useful during the John Lee shooting that left 3 dead almost four years ago in Moscow.

"This could have prevented that because of information being disseminated, and he could have been intercepted before he got to point two or point three, then it's worth everything that goes into it as far as I'm concerned," Boland said.

Zabala said it appeared the key to prevention is improved education and community-wide access so law enforcement response times are faster.

"I just don't know that this is the best solution as folks have pointed out - whether that be in the schools or community-wide," she said.

Zabala said she was very uncomfortable with moving forward with the application without finding out who the selected users of the application will be and how that pool would be selected.

Boland said the application seems like an opportunity to try something out and if problems arise, then the council can terminate it at anytime.

"They're trying to think proactively instead of reaction," Bonzo said. "We spent all our time in reaction (during Moscow's school threat earlier this year), so this is just an opportunity to explore another way to think about gathering information."

Leo Naboyshchikov, who works for the company, Kestrel Technology Group, that designed the application, said the application, which currently only works on Android devices, allows certain people called high fidelity observers to quickly access the application and press certain buttons to notify law enforcement and other observers of emergency and non-emergency situations.

Alessa said those observers would include health professionals, law enforcement, ambulance, fire and community members.

Naboyshchikov said users can hit a "FYI," "Suspicious Activity" or "Red Alert" button.

FYI is a low-level alert that documents something seen or heard but is not necessarily threatening or criminal.

The suspicious button provides greater detail regarding an event that rises to a higher level of suspicion or potential threat. It documents substantial warning signs to law enforcement to aid in the prevention of an incident.

Red alert notifies law enforcement of a condition that poses an imminent threat. Pressing the button informs law enforcement of an emerging critical situation to assist rapid response and situational awareness.

Observers also have the ability to send and receive messages on the application to and from law enforcement to elaborate on past reporting or provide additional information on an ongoing event.

Three buttons will notify law enforcement what the observer's current status is.

The green button indicates the user is safe, amber means caution and red indicates dangerous conditions. Switching to one of the three options allows law enforcement to track the observer's phone and identify where the person is, Naboyshchikov said.

A graphic interface triggered by a red alert, lockout or lockdown event allows quick reporting on additional details of a threat event, any medical needs or shelter-in-place situations.

The plan was to slowly integrate the program in three phases. The final phase would be to expand the system and continue training, making system adjustments and analyzing what is and is not working, Naboyshchikov said.

"This is the opportunity for us to slowly push out a program that may end up saving lives and give us the key pieces of information," Fry said.

He said often times after tragedies, different people and agencies knew bits of information that could have prevented the incident, but those involved did not collaborate and share those facts.

Fry said 911 calls go to dispatchers, who then relay the call to first responders. while the application would allow reports to be directly shared with law enforcement and other observers.

"We're not envisioning this as a replacement to 911," said Moscow Information Systems Director Jesse Flowers. "We're hoping that the main focus of it will be to help prevent a problem, not how you respond once a problem is going on."

Bailey also spoke in support of the application.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

Recommended for you