By GREGORY ZELLER //
They don’t shoot webs from their wrists and if they’re running around in tights and capes, well, let’s just say that’s another story. But with advanced technology facilitating instant communication, today’s average citizens are often on crime-fighting’s front lines.
Andy Braverman wants to take that technology, and those anti-crime capabilities, one step further.
His Port Jefferson Station-based Apptec Corp. has already introduced the DigiTel Police Reporting System, a “digital dictation system” that reduces paperwork and allows officers to focus more on serving and protecting. Now Braverman is turning to Kickstarter to give his latest gadget, The Crime Stopper, a crime-fighting chance.
A professional electrical engineer for over three decades, Braverman’s experiences range from developing dictation systems for a Wooodbury-based subsidiary of Amsterdam’s Royal Philips to designing jet-engine test systems for Grumman to tinkering with surgical lasers, EKG machines and other high-tech contraptions for a number of regional startups.
In 1997, he launched Apptec Corp. to provide freelance engineering and product-development services to other companies, and to design, manufacture and market its own products – including a series of “voice-processing products” incorporating various dictation technologies, Braverman’s bread-and-butter during his 10-year Philips tenure.
Among those products: The DigiTel, which streamlines field reports – law-enforcement officers can literally phone them in – and keeps America’s finest out on patrol. Things are going “pretty well” with the DigiTel, according to Braverman, who introduced the product to the Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club of Suffolk County last summer and has managed to circulate about two dozen units so far, with clients ranging from the Ohio State Police to local departments in Upstate New York.
His big DigiTel fish is the NYPD, the inventor noted, but “just getting in front of the right people there is a long-term commitment.”
In the meantime, Braverman has come up with a new dictation-based crime-fighting device: The Crime Stopper, a “spinoff of our police reporting system” designed in direct response to requests from existing law-enforcement clients, many of whom are “interested in the ability to record and forward hotline tips,” the engineer told Innovate LI.
As with DigiTel, the idea is speed and efficiency – although, in The Crime Stopper’s case, the notion is less about speeding up the paperwork and more about effecting immediate, sometimes emergency action.
Unlike existing crime-tip hotlines – the national 1-800-COP-SHOT line, for instance, which solicits information from witnesses in cases where law enforcement agents are wounded in the line of duty – The Crime Stopper is not limited to specific crimes.
It also varies from other tip lines through geography: The anonymous tip system is designed to be employed by a singular department, agency or facility, allowing law enforcers and security personnel to monitor real-time tips and spring to action as necessary.
That immediacy factor developed as The Crime Stopper came into sharper focus, according to Braverman, who said the system’s original intent was to give local witnesses a safe place to snitch.
“Say detectives are interviewing people who witnessed a crime but don’t feel comfortable speaking to police out in public, because of possible retribution,” Braverman said. “With that in mind, we started developing a prototype for an anonymous tip hotline.”
The Crime Stopper aims to deliver several advantages over “generic” hotlines, he noted. Many crime-tip hotlines are answered by a live operator, a deterrent for some nervous witnesses; others record information that then needs to be deciphered, collated and shipped off to the proper agency.
With Apptec’s new system, information is recorded by a local police department, sheriff’s office or other facility – a school or airport, for instance – and instant text and email alerts are sent to duty personnel who “take appropriate action in real-time,” Braverman said.
“Once the person hangs up, the police will receive an alert indicating a tip was called in and they can begin listening within seconds,” the inventor added. “There’s nothing like this out there, where it’s a localized system that’s utilized by a single department within a particular jurisdiction.”
While it’s truest benefit might be in hyper-localizing tips, the system is adaptable to several law-enforcement scenarios, Braverman noted. He suggested “a wide market including Homeland Security, the FBI and the TSA” and estimated – based just on the number of local law-enforcement agencies around the nation, including police departments and sheriff’s offices – a potential $124 million market.
“If everyone were to go with this, it could get that high,” he noted. “But speaking as conservatively as possible, this market is a couple of million dollars at least.”
While he has the concept and an early prototype, Braverman said The Crime Stopper software and hardware – a recording device that connects to the user’s computer servers via a USB port – still need to be refined before commercialization. That led to the 30-day Kickstarter campaign launched April 29, with the entrepreneur aiming to raise $35,000 in working capital.
Apptec plans to promote the campaign on “crowd-backing Twitter feeds” and through other social media channels, Braverman said, but if the Kickstarter effort falls short, The Crime Stopper won’t die on the drawing board.
Apptec, which includes the founder/president and one full-time business manager/marketing professional, has never run a Kickstarter campaign before and, to date, has never received any outside investments. Braverman said he can self-fund The Crime Stopper if necessary, though Kickstarting it will allow the company to deploy the system more quickly.
A failed campaign could be followed by a second, smaller Kickstarter effort that “subsidizes this more than actually funds it,” Braverman added, but a successful campaign will “help accelerate the development and get this out to market within two months’ time or sooner.”
And speed, of course, is the name of this game.
“The key advantage here is the immediacy,” Braverman said. “In less than 30 seconds from receipt of a tip, the appropriate officer is able to listen and take the best action, whether it’s sending a black-and-white to a location or getting out there themselves.”