Criminals in Staffordshire and the West Midlands will be dispatched to jobs highlighted by residents through a new app.
Probation bosses have invented the app to help people choose the Community Payback work done by the conscript army of convicts ordered to work for free as part of their punishment.
It comes as it was revealed criminals did 612,000 hours of unpaid work in Staffordshire and the West Midlands last year.
The enforced toil of the 4,500-plus law breakers is estimated to have been worth more than £3.5 million in free labour for the local community.
Catherine Holland, chief executive of Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust, announced the launch of the new app today. She said: “The public want to see offenders giving something back to their communities and this will make that quicker and easier.”
The free app, which works on all Android phones, allows anybody to take a photo of an eyesore – dubbed a ‘grotspot’ – that needs a clean-up in and send it directly to their local Probation Trust. The app will ‘geo-tag’ the photo, giving it an exact geographical reference that will enable officials to accurately pinpoint the location.
Community Payback projects include litter picking, clearing dense undergrowth, repairing and redecorating community centres and removing graffiti. If the work is suitable for offenders, organisers of the scheme will arrange for them to go out and do it.
The person who came up with the suggestion will be automatically informed when it has been completed and will also be shown a map of pictures and information about Community Payback projects in the local area.
The three-person SWM Probation team – a Community Payback manager, an IT designer and a data analyst – won the funding to develop their idea and launch the app from the Ordnance Survey’s GeoVation challenge competition in June 2012.
Team spokesman Jason Davies said: “We hope it will make the public feel more engaged in decision-making and ensure the punishment and rehabilitation of offenders is more visible and meaningful to people in their communities.”