Family Harm is an award-winning iOS app we designed with New Zealand Police to help tackle the single biggest social issue facing New Zealand today. Domestic violence contributes to approximately half of all violent crime in New Zealand and accounts for over 40% of frontline police time.
The relationship between Smudge and New Zealand Police dates back to 2014, when we began designing an iOS app called OnDuty, which has since revolutionised the way New Zealand's frontline police collect, access and act on information in the field. Family Harm is an app within the OnDuty suite that became operational in May 2018.
Bronwyn Marshall, acting Superintendent Safer Whānau, describes the value the app has brought to the process: “The Family Harm app replaces a 13-page paper form, which took officers around 40 minutes to complete". With over 121,000 episodes of family harm occurring in New Zealand in the last calendar year, the app effectively banished more than 1.5 million pages of paperwork overnight.
To better understand the needs of users, the Smudge team spent hundreds of hours shadowing frontline police across multiple towns and cities, and some of our team co-located to the Royal New Zealand Police College in Porirua.
In partnership with NZ Police, we set up a design lab where our team workshopped real-world scenarios, bringing in actors to play the roles of victim and perpetrator.
With the Family Harm app, officers arriving at the scene are more prepared than ever before. Supt Marshall explains: “The information we have [in the app] is live from the National Intelligence Database, so officers at the scene can be working on an investigation at the same time. A supervisor can also view what’s going on in the investigation and provide input, even when they’re away from the scene”.
The app gives frontline officers useful information such as historical episodes at the same location, providing them with valuable context in what is often an ongoing chain of events. Police describe having this additional context as an "eyes wide open" approach that is paying huge dividends.
In many cases, the victim of a family harm investigation is not willing or able to speak for a variety of reasons. To solve for this, we created a solution using a locked-down kiosk mode within the app, which enables victims to give attending officers information without speaking. Supt Marshall adds: “We’ve developed this feature in English and Te Reo, with a hope to the future that we’ll develop it into other languages. This is especially important as New Zealand becomes more multi-cultural”.
Prior to the Family Harm app, information could take several days to be entered into police records. Today, alerts generated at the scene are automatically sent to the National Intelligence Database, giving instant visibility of an investigation to the entire organisation.
Now the Family Harm app is fully deployed, we plan to improve it further as we receive real-world feedback from frontline officers. In particular, the ability for New Zealand Police to share data between agencies such as ACC and Oranga Tamariki will help keep our communities even safer.
Supt Marshall concludes: “It’s pretty exciting that our staff have been given the permission to do things differently at the scene. We’ve also given them a tool that enables them to do that. To me, that clearly exemplifies the care that you can put in when you’re no longer tied up in process”.
News and Accolades
"Another prime example of the ways in which technology can be used to make the world a better place" - Idealog, July 2019
Family Harm app shortlisted in IDC's 2019 Smart City Asia Pacific Awards (SCAPA) - IDC, May 2019
"Police projects win big" - NZ Police Ten One Magazine, September 2018
"App created for NZ Police wipes out 1.5 million forms per year" - Stuff, September 2018
Family Harm app wins coveted Purple Pin in Public Good Category - Best Design Awards, September 2018
"The Christchurch tech firm making a difference with NZ Police" - bizEDGE, August 2018
"Police Family Harm app recognised with national IT award" - Scoop NZ, July 2018
"An inspiring use of technology" - New Zealand Excellence in IT Awards, July 2018
"Police launch new app to target family harm call-outs" - Stuff, May 2018