From terrorism to lost toys: The Norwich smartphone app which wants to be the eyes and ears of the police

A Norfolk entrepreneur who has invented a smartphone app to help report dangerous or suspicious situations and prevent crime believes it will prove invaluable to police investigations.

Vigilent is the brainchild of retired Lotus Cars and Moonraker Marine International marketing executive John Berry, who believes the idea could both solve crimes and prevent offences from happening.

The app, which has a patent pending, works by allowing users to record footage of everything from crimes in progress and suspicious behaviour to lost property and missing pets. Recordings are automatically uploaded to a national database, enabling the authorities to quickly access the footage.

Mr Berry, of Hethel, is looking for partners to help him develop the app, and believes it could prove timely, given recent calls for the public to report any suspicious behaviour in the wake of terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.

“It allows you to act when seconds matter,” he said. “You don’t need to unlock your phone, put in a password or then start up the app.

“Sometimes things are over before you’ve had the chance to do anything about it, so Vigilent will allow you to record and upload footage immediately via a simple gesture on your phone.”

He added: “Police in the UK are overstretched, and some situations get sidelined.

Most Read

“Many police stations are closing and others operate on restricted hours. Many of them no longer deal with problems such as lost and found or animal cruelty.”

Mr Berry said an automated register that allows Vigilent users to report suspicious activity can fill the void.

He also pointed to the Hatton Garden jewellery heist of 2015, and said Vigilent might have helped the police crack the case much quicker.

“It was reported police had to trawl through 16,000 hours of CCTV footage after that raid. The vast majority of that will have been of no relevance,” he said.

“But if Vigilent users had uploaded anything suspicious prior to the incident, a search of the database might have helped pinpoint relevant CCTV footage.”

The footage will not be stored on a user’s device, to prevent the footage being manipulated.

Users will be able to connect with each other through the app, for example to allow lost property to be returned.

The app had to be called Vigilent – rather than the correct spelling of the word – so that the name could be legally protected.