25 Investigates: Police tap new smart phone app to find missing kids

METHUEN, Mass. - It's not available to the public, but some local police chiefs say a new online application designed specifically for law enforcement will help them find missing children by instantly blasting color photos, video, and information to officers' smartphones in the field.

"So, a cop's driving and his laptop dings in his cruiser and he looks and he goes, 'hey, there's the kid right there!'" said Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon.

Methuen Police are among at least 20 departments in Massachusetts that have signed on with Chelmsford-based BOLO Mobile.

The app offers a range of features to share information across jurisdictional boundaries to help track down suspects, stolen property, as well as alerting officers to missing children.

For Solomon, the mission to track down kids at risk has become "personal" ever since a dive team found the body of 15-year-old Brynne Kurmas in the Spickett River in 2011. The teenager had been missing from a local group home.

"I vowed, as long as I'm here... we're never going to say we haven't done every single thing we can do," said Solomon.

Creators of the BOLO Mobile app say, too often, police departments are still relying on radio calls and black and white posters to inform their officers about missing kids in the critical hours after they're first reported missing.

"Much the way that civilians are able to cut and share and send photos out, the police should really be able to do that themselves as well," said co-founder Brian Kelley.

BOLO Mobile also enlisted the help of retired police chief Richard Stanley to try to convince other departments to start using the app. Stanley urges law enforcement to break out of what he calls the "silo effect" in police work.

"Every town or every city or every agency within the government had silos of information, but yet that information was never shared. So, what was happening was all of this good hard work that was done by officers never went anywhere," said Stanley. "This (app) is not just a tool for solving crime. We have, as an industry, an obligation to the public."

An obligation to the public that Chief Solomon says he takes seriously.

Police officers in Methuen now get specific training on how to respond to cases of children missing from local group homes and the BOLO Mobile app is a tool that Solomon hopes will make them more nimble and successful.

"The possibilities of this app are endless and if it helps save one life, it's well worth it."