GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY, MI -- Grand Traverse sheriff’s authorities have found time and time again how useful the office’s smartphone application can be.

But never has the app’s usefulness been quite as apparent as it was last week when police identified a shoplifting suspect — in just 15 minutes.

The AppArrest mobile phone program is available in both the Android and iPhone markets. The sheriff’s office has had a license to use it for nearly two years, and the application was made available to the general public in February. Users can download the app for free and have immediate access to all news releases posted by sheriff’s authorities. This gives police a way to directly connect with the greater public.

Push notifications alert users to new police investigations.

Last week, investigators released information on a Meijer shoplifting suspect, including a surveillance photo from Meijer of the suspect walking through the store. Within 15 minutes of that information hitting the application on a weekday afternoon, a tipster successfully identified the suspect and police had the information they needed.

“We’ve never had that quick of a turnaround,” Undersheriff Nathan Alger said. “This was a new thing for us. It was a record.”

Alger says at least 500 Android phone users have downloaded the application — many, members of the general public. Hundreds more iPhone users have access to it as well.

The application has electronic forms for submitting tips —complete with a photo upload tool — directly to the sheriff’s office. Tipsters can include as much identifying information with a tip as desired. They can also remain completely anonymous.

The app has forms for users to submit if they want to compliment an especially helpful deputy or report an abandoned vehicle, complete with the location, license plate, and any photos taken. Users can directly access the Michigan Sex Offender Registry, the sheriff’s office Facebook page and can select an option to place a direct 911 call.

Alger said productive information has come in through the application concerning everything from individuals with warrants for their arrest, to issues with illegal drug sales, to violent crime investigations. The public’s reception has exceeded expectations, he said.

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