The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office said on April 10 that it is testing a new crime reporting app that could reduce response times on the north shore.

Sheriff Randy Smith said the mobile application, called App Task Force, is free for residents to download to their smartphones.

With the touch of a few buttons, users can send an emergency alert to local law enforcement to report crimes ranging from reckless driving or drug deals to a shooting, the sheriff said.

The app was developed by New Orleans businessman Sidney Torres IV and is being provided to the Sheriff's Office for a free 90-day trial.

During that period, six St. Tammany deputies will be able to receive the alerts on iPads in their vehicles. Should the Sheriff’s Office decide to enter into a contract with Torres, the technology could cost taxpayers about $50,000 per year, Smith said.

Torres made a similar crime-reporting app available to French Quarter residents and business owners three years ago. He and app developer Bob Simms said it has reduced crime by helping New Orleans police pinpoint suspicious activities, as well as actual crimes and their locations,  almost instantaneously.

Torres donated that app to the French Quarter Management District, which funds extra security patrols in the Quarter through revenue created by hotels' self-imposed taxes. The detail officers working the off-duty patrols review crime alerts submitted by app users and respond to them.

The St. Tammany initiative appears to be Torres' first attempt to market the app to a law enforcement agency.

The sheriff and the developers think the app will work in St. Tammany, which has the third largest sheriff’s office in the state. It’s the first time the app will be used in a geographical area as large as St. Tammany, and the first time GPS tracking technology will be used in conjunction with the app.

“This is the future of technology, and I’m trying to do anything and everything I can to get that technology to work to help keep our citizens safe,” Smith said.

The app does not replace the 911 emergency system; it is meant to augment that system by hastening deputies’ response to emergency calls.

When a person downloads the app, their name and cellphone number will be registered with App Task Force. If they report a crime through the app, deputies will be signaled via their iPads, which will alert them to the breaking situation.

Deputies will respond to the signal as they would when radioed by a 911 dispatcher, but the app is expected to trim the time needed to forward information from user to dispatcher to deputy.

Users also can upload a photograph of what they are seeing, which will help deputies get a better idea of the nature of the incident to which they’ll be responding.

Torres first approached Smith about the app when Smith was Slidell's police chief. The businessman said he has numerous family members on the north shore, and he reached out to Smith to give him “another crime-fighting tool.”

The sheriff has filmed a pair of 30-second television spots to familiarize residents with the app. They began airing April 10.

By Andrew Canulette

Slidell Council works fast with light agenda

The Slidell City Council had a very light agenda on April 10, and the result was a meeting that wound up lasting nine minutes from gavel to gavel.

In a flash, the council heard an annual report from Slidell Youth Football Association President Kevin Morgan, who announced the local league enjoyed a successful 2017 campaign. Slidell provides financial backing to several local recreational sports groups such as the SYFA that in turn provide youth sports opportunities to Slidell-area children. 

In other business, the council made very slight adjustments to its current surplus equipment list and the method of selling that property.

The board also accepted as complete the rehabilitation of four sewer lift stations — at the end of Country Club Boulevard, at Driftwood Circle near West Pinewood Drive, at the corner of Gause Boulevard and Pearl Acres Street, and also on Gateway Drive near Ochsner Medical Center — Northshore.

The Slidell City Council is set to meet again April 24.

Heritage Fest seeks sponsors, vendors 

Corporate and individual sponsors are sought for the 21st annual Slidell Heritage Festival on June 30 at Slidell's Heritage Park.

The festival is a joint effort of the two Slidell Rotary clubs, which are joined by the City of Slidell and The New Orleans Advocate/St. Tammany Farmer to celebrate the nation’s birthday and provide funds for Slidell-area charities.

Tax-deductible sponsorships will enable businesses and individuals to reach several thousand Slidell-area residents against a backdrop of live music, great food and a fireworks show. Sponsorships are available at several levels:

* Gazebo Sponsor: $5,000. Exclusive signage in gazebo area, 20 gate passes and 10 VIP parking passes.

* Children’s Area and Art-in the Park Sponsor: $2,500. Special signage in designated area, 15 gate passes and six VIP parking passes.

* Fireworks Sponsor: $1,000. Eight gate passes and four VIP parking passes.

* Children’s Activity: $300. Sponsor a sign at a children’s activity, game, pony ride or one of four inflatables. Three gate passes and one VIP parking pass.

* Red Sponsor: $500. Four gate passes and two VIP parking passes

* White Sponsor: $250. Two gate passes and one VIP parking pass

* Blue Sponsor: $150 Company or individual name on sponsor boards and festival website

Sponsors will receive recognition by the DJ throughout the festival, have their names on sponsor boards, rolling video and festival website, plus a designated space to distribute promotional items.

For more information, call Lydia Alford at (985) 643-6440 or Sharron Newton at (415) 710-7347. Email can be sent to lydia@slidellheritagefest.org or sharron@slidellheritagefest.org.

Rappaport new head of Tulane Primate Center

Neuroscientist and HIV/AIDS researcher Jay Rappaport, Ph.D., will join Tulane University as the new director and chief academic officer of the Tulane National Primate Research Center located just south of Covington.

Rappaport, a professor and associate chair for education in the Neuroscience Department of the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, begins June 1.

For almost two decades, Rappaport’s research at Temple has focused primarily on HIV infection, HIV/AIDS-related disorders of the nervous system and the development of novel therapies for the treatment of AIDS. Rappaport’s expertise matches a key strength of the Tulane National Primate Center, where almost 60 percent of funded grants focus on HIV/AIDS research.

Rappaport succeeds previous TNPRC Director Andrew Lackner, who passed away after an illness in April 2017.

TNPRC is part of a national network of seven federally funded National Primate Research Centers dedicated to fighting diseases from Alzheimer’s to Zika and improving human health and lives worldwide. In partnership with the National Institutes of Health, other government organizations, private foundations and industry, the centers conduct studies that discover preventions, treatments and cures possible.

Covington wins grant

Covington's Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs has been awarded an instructor training grant from the National Recreation and Park Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to offer the "Walk with Ease" program to the community.

The department is one of 88 park and recreation agencies to receive the grant, which is geared to citizens 50 and older.

"Walk with Ease" was developed by the Arthritis Foundation and is scientifically proven to help reduce pain and stiffness associated with arthritis, but also offers benefits for people managing other chronic conditions.

 "Walk with Ease" programs must be conducted by certified and trained instructors.

The programs provided by the Covington DPRC will be offered three times per week for six weeks. The classes are suited for anyone interested in a low-impact exercise program, especially those looking to manage a chronic condition.

The program is scheduled to begin the week of April 30. Two class groups will be formed; each will be limited to 25 participants. Registration is open, and joining is free.

For more information, go to www.covla.com/recreation, email recreation@covla.com or call (985) 898-4737.

Lee joins Sheriff's Office Public Affairs team

Capt. Scott Lee has been named a public affairs officer with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office.

Lee previously served as a lieutenant within the STPSO’s Operations Division. He started with the agency in 1997 as a reserve deputy and was hired full-time in 2010. Lee has served as a member of the STPSO Dive Team, Honor Guard and as a liaison to the Reserve Division.

Lee joins existing Public Affairs team members Corp. Eddie Vauthier and deputies Meredith Timberlake and Suzanne Carboni.