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MBTA announces smartphone app that allows people to report, photograph suspicious activity

A free iPhone app will allow MBTA riders to report suspicious activity to a dispatcher, MBTA officials announced today, saying it was part of a campaign to increase safety throughout the system.

Using the See Say app, MBTA officials said, riders can share pictures, text, and location details with a dispatcher, if they see something suspicious while traveling.

“This new app encourages daily commuters to play an active role in our ongoing efforts to maintain a safe and comfortable transit environment,” Jonathan Davis, the MBTA general manager, said in a statement.

The app, which is now available on iTunes.com, is part of the MBTA’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign, which was launched in 2003 in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.


Funding for the app and campaign were provided by the Department of Homeland Security’s Transit Security Grant Program. The app can be used to report everything from a suspicious package to a sighting of a missing person.

If a user does not have service, the app is programmed to send a report as soon as service is available. Users can also choose to submit a tip anonymously.

The camera’s flash will automatically be disabled if a rider wants to use the app to discreetly take a picture of something suspicious.

Transit police dispatchers who receive the tip can respond to an alert with more questions. The app can also be programmed to receive updates regarding service delays or other alerts.

The app was developed by Elerts Corporation, which specializes in emergency notification and response systems through mobile networks, smartphones, and social media.

In addition to the app, the MBTA announced that it has repealed all rules against taking pictures on its property.

“It is time we lifted any restrictions on taking pictures,” said MBTA Transit Police Chief Paul MacMillan. “It’s almost impossible to control.”


He said now that most riders have cellphones with built-in cameras, it is more beneficial to start encouraging their use in order to decrease crime.

Another version of the app will be available for Android users in early July.

Alli Knothe can be reached at aknothe@globe.com.