The Orange County Sheriff’s Office recently launched a custom mobile app for iPhone and Android devices to build community engagement and foster communication with local law enforcement.

After its launch last week, the official app of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has received more than 400 downloads.

Once residents download the application from either the Apple or Android app stores, they will be able to submit tips, provide feedback about their interactions with sheriff’s office employees, request house or business checks, learn about programs and services and view the detention center custody report.

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood said, in the age of social media and technology, law enforcement needs to adopt its processes to make communicating with the public more accessible.

“So, if we are to stay relevant and in touch with our community that we serve, I feel it’s really important for us to meet them where they are and this app will allow us to do that,” Blackwood said.

Alicia Stemper, Director of Public Information for the sheriff’s office, said the app will also be used to send emergency messages to users – such as warnings about traffic back-ups or other safety concerns.

“Who’s going to sit around looking at our website just to check if maybe we’re letting them know about a bank that got robbed and a suspect that went thought a neighborhood – we can let you know instantly,” Stemper said.

Stemper said the app also allows users to access a property catalog to keep track of their valuables in case of theft.

“You can put your VIN number, your license plate, a picture of your car, grandpa’s gun, your camera, your chainsaw – your valuable things,” Stemper said. “It lives in your phone, we don’t have access to it, but when – we hope you never need it – but when that thing gets lost or stolen, you’ve got it in the palm of your hand. Makes your job easier to give it to us, makes our job easier to get it from you.”

When talking about protecting your valuables, Blackwood said there is nothing more valuable than our children. In the case of a missing persons case, Blackwood said the app allows parents and caretakers to securely upload personal information to be accessed by deputies in case of emergency.

“You have the ability to take that child’s photograph, put the information in your phone about that child – that’s not our information it’s your information – that heaven forbid you’re in a crowd and that child goes missing – you can instantly give us all the information we need to be able to help that child.”

Home screen of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office’s app.

Blackwood said giving residents a way to communicate with the sheriff’s office virtually will foster more open communication and hopefully decrease hesitancy when it comes to working with law enforcement.

“The last thing I want to be is intimidating,” Blackwood said. “I mean 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, I don’t intimidate many people – but it’s not me and I realize it’s not me. It’s the high office that I hold. I think that by taking the office to the people, giving them the opportunity to talk to me from their house – from their phone wherever they are – will make a difference.”

To download the Orange County Sheriff’s Office’s free app, just search for “Orange County Sheriff NC” in your phone’s app store. The icon is a challenge coin and the main screen features a blue background with two cars in front of UNC’s Old Well.

Lead photo via OCSO. does not charge subscription fees. You can support local journalism and our mission to serve the community. Contribute today – every single dollar matters.