NZ Police Family Harm App

Family Harm is a mobile app designed with New Zealand Police to help tackle New Zealand’s single biggest social issue – domestic violence. Police statistics unfortunately show that around half of all violent crime in New Zealand falls into this category, and it accounts for more than 40 per cent of frontline police time.

Smudge’s relationship with the police began in 2014 with the design of another app, OnDuty, the cornerstone of a smartphone-based frontline policing strategy. OnDuty, now deployed to more than 9,000 officers, has expanded into a suite of applications that collectively save police somewhere in the vicinity of 500,000 hours every year.

The Family Harm app sits within the OnDuty suite, replacing a 13-page paper form, which took officers a minimum of an hour to complete. With over 121,000 episodes of family harm occurring in New Zealand each year, the app effectively banished more than 1.5 million pages of paperwork overnight.

The app also has a real-time benefit, with alerts generated at the scene now automatically sent to the national intelligence database to provide instant visibility of an investigation.

This means officers at a scene can now access valuable contextual information about historical episodes at the same location, something New Zealand Police describes as an “eyes wide open approach that is paying huge dividends”.

Designing an app of this type means knowing your subject matter inside out. For Smudge, doing its groundwork meant hundreds of hours shadowing frontline police, with some of the team co-locating to the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua, and a design lab with actors set up to workshop scenarios.

With Family Harm now fully deployed, the plan is to make further improvements with real-world feedback from frontline officers.

Already what is showing great promise is the ability for New Zealand Police to share data with other agencies, such as ACC and Oranga Tamariki, to help them keep communities as safe as possible.