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Who's behind the door? How FirstTwo is helping cops gather intel before approaching a home

Before an officer approaches a residence, he or she can know the names, ages, backgrounds and proclivities of everyone in the household


It takes years to learn about everyone on your patrol beat. Most cops never manage it. What if you could see who lived in every house and know something about them before you walked up to the door?

This, in essence, is the idea behind FirstTwo, an information service offered to public safety.

FirstTwo draws from social media, public information databases and a host of other sources to provide a mini-profile of everyone associated with any address. An agency can also optionally use this service to keep track of the location and identity of its own officers assigned to specific incidents, making it a single point of information about both civilians and responders in the service area.

Because FirstTwo runs on both handheld devices and PCs, its utility is always available to the officer in the field. (Photo/FirstTwo)
Because FirstTwo runs on both handheld devices and PCs, its utility is always available to the officer in the field. (Photo/FirstTwo)

Captain David Augustus of the Marin County (California) Sheriff’s Office said, “FirstTwo is allowing us to be much more informed as we approach our daily work in law enforcement and we are looking forward to enhancing our situational awareness during significant events.”

Simple interface

The interface is a simple map. Enter an address or allow the mobile application’s GPS link to find your location on a map, and you’ll see a map (street or satellite view, your choice) of that neighborhood, with the names and sometimes the ages of everyone associated with each address superimposed on the location.

Each address has a numbered icon above the names. Touch or click the icon, and the app displays an expanded view of the information associated with that address.

For example, the listing for my own home shows my name (as I’m the only one living here), but not my age. A click of the icon on my house will show several phone numbers and links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and Zillow. Not all of the links are “live,” as some people have their information protected better than others, and some people just don’t have Facebook or LinkedIn accounts.

The depth of information for some of my neighbors is more complete. The links to my neighbor’s homes show the names of everyone living in the household, and their ages.

Public records databases

FirstTwo—the name comes from the importance of what you learn during the first two minutes of any incident—is the work of Niraj Shah, an entrepreneur based in Bellevue, Washington. Shah has built several companies, the most notable being Intelius, which is the database behind people search and background check services like Zabasearch.

Services such as Intelius have gotten a bad rap from many cops, as they can make public information that some cops want to keep more private. Many, if not most, police officers go to some trouble to protect their personal information, such as their home address and telephone numbers. Even some of the free search services can thwart those efforts, as they consolidate information pulled from public sources such as property assessments, utility bills, driver’s license records and telephone directories.

It’s very difficult to keep one’s information out of all those sources.

Most entities will remove or hide your entries on request, but this is an arduous and continual process that will take a lifelong commitment. Fortunately, there are companies out there like ManageURiD that can help officers keep their online identity private.

Law enforcement has made increasing use of public records databases in recent years and it’s proving to be incredibly useful information. Where people wanted by the police can manage to stay “below the radar” for many purposes, it’s as difficult for the bad guys to keep their information out of the systems as it is for the cops.

When a criminal justice records search fails to locate someone, the same search made on a public records database system can reveal details the criminal justice services never had. Many law enforcement agencies subscribe to these services for both criminal investigations and for background checks of police applicants and license applications.

Highly portable information

Because FirstTwo runs on both handheld devices and PCs, its utility is always available to the officer in the field. Before an officer approaches a residence for everything from a crime report call for service to a domestic violence incident, he or she can know the names and ages of everyone in the household, and possibly something about their background and proclivities.

If the link associated with a resident goes to a Facebook page filled with anti-police rhetoric, the officer might call for assistance or otherwise modify his approach to the situation before knocking on the door.

One of the more addictive features of the FirstTwo app is “simulate drive.” The user enters any two addresses into the app, and it takes them on a moving map tour of the route between the two. As the user moves down each street, he sees pop-ups over every address he passes, detailing the names of everyone associated with those locations. The app also provides an ability to search by a person’s name.

Coming soon

A proposed feature, presently in beta testing, allows officers to opt-in to incident specific location tracking during a significant event, so incident commanders can track the identity and location of all responders, event those from assisting agencies. The location stream can be saved as a video and replayed, showing where each responder was at any point in time. 

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