3 Questions With Chris Sinsigalli: Developer Of The CT Police Phones App

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CT Police Phones is an app that lists all the non emergency numbers for police departments around the state. It was developed by Chris Sinsigalli, 30, from Middletown.

What motivated you to make the app?

This past winter on my way into work one day, I was listening to a podcast of an NPR program, called Planet Money. The episode featured an interview with Instapaper’s founder Marco Arment. Arment described how he came up with a problem he had with reading long articles on the internet and wanting to save them to read them later on the go. Arment then talked about his earnings from his App—6 figures! When I went home I did a little research, downloaded his app, and found out what it takes to make my own app. I downloaded the free software, Xcode from Apple. While I had the interest and motivation to make an app, I couldn’t for the life of me come up with a good idea for an App. So until I did, I spent about 2 months learning the program, and more importantly how to code. I basically got help and learned from a couple of books, blogs, forums, and a bazillion YouTube video tutorials. I would say by no means am I good at coding and I still really don’t fully understand why certain commands work. I did a ton of trial and error and testing on my own iPhone. 

            Professionally, I am a full-time public safety dispatcher & supervisor for New Haven. I manage the operations and personnel on the busy evening shift. One day I noticed a higher than normal 911 call volume of people reporting what we consider non-emergencies. Things like lost property, parking complaints, and missing vehicles. That sort of thing is frustrating for us dispatchers, basically because we think the public is just unaware of the non-emergency number, or lazy. Then it hit me, ‘Ahhhh, I can make an app that provides the non-emergency phone number.’ It spawned from there and the wheels were spinning like crazy in my head. I had all these other ideas and bells and whistles of how I wanted my user interface set up. My lack of programming and design experience squashed many of those ideas though. But I figured Connecticut was a small enough state to start with, and compiling the data wouldn’t be too arduous. I did some searching in the App Store and I couldn’t find an app that existed for Connecticut police agencies. Another developer has one for California (CA Police Finder) but I didn’t really like how he set his up. 

How long did you work on it?

Roughly 4 months from when I started coding to the time I first submitted it to Apple. It was 4 months of hair pulling hell! I worked on it in the mornings before I went to work. I spent many weeks stuck on one little aspect that any other programmer would be able to instantly solve. Luckily there are a lot of resources and people on the internet to help figure stuff out. 

The intention of my app was to be very simple and basically just to perform two functions…have a listing of all the numbers, and to be able to press a button and call that agency. However, Apple seems to like a sophisticated simplicity. They rejected my app twice over the summer, giving vague reasons when they do, such as a generic “doesn’t have any lasting entertainment value.” I found it odd because it was a reference app, not a game. So I then added a few more features such as the “Find Me” function, website links, and directions to the police department. Needless to say It was exciting when I received the email from Apple stating it was approved for sale. 
What kind of feedback have you gotten?

I have received a lot of positive feedback. Anything to curb the misuses of the 911 system is a positive thing…especially for the ones that have to answer the calls. Originally I had intended this app for an average Connecticut iPhone user, which is definitely a limited part of the market. Just before I released it for sale I realized this app could be a tool for other law enforcement professionals trying to communicate with other agencies. A lot of people have made recommendations to go on a larger scale with a similar app. I don’t think I am ready for that yet, but I’ll be looking into it. 

CT Police Phones was released the day before the new operating system, iOS 6 came out. I have since submitted an app update Version 1.1 which will have some bug fixes, and iOS 6 support. I also made a correction to one of the departments phone numbers. Apple is anything but quick though when it comes to reviewing apps, so I expect it to take a about a week or so. I am constantly making tweaks here and there and looking into alternative ways to make the app more efficient. Basically, I set a goal to get something I created to market and I achieved it without any investors. 

 

 

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