U.S. Police Urge Traffic App Waze to Remove Police-location Alerts

Associated Press quotes LAPD chief as saying that Waze could be 'misused by those with criminal intent to endanger police officers and the community.' Waze disputes the claim.

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The Israeli-developed app Waze, which Google now owns, helps drivers avoid jams like this one. But some U.S. police say that the app also can be used to track movements of officers and that it should remove its police-location alerts.Credit: Reuters

U.S. police are concerned that Waze, the hugely popular application that helps keep drivers out of traffic jams, can be used to harm officers, and they are urging Google, the app's parent, to remove a feature that alerts drivers to the location of officers.

The Associated Press reported that Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a December 30, 2014, letter to Google that Waze could be "misused by those with criminal intent to endanger police officers and the community." Waze disputes the claim.

The 50 million users of Waze, which was developed in Israel and purchased by Google in 2013 for $966 million, can alert each other to all manner of traffic matters, like accidents, road hazards, speed traps and construction delays. They can also post alerts to where they've seen police located.

AP reported that no connections between Waze and attacks on police have been made.

But Beck said in his letter that the man who on December 20 shot two New York City police officers had been using the service to track police for some time.

And the news service quoted Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford County, Virginia, as saying that it's a matter of time until someone uses Waze to hunt and harm an officer.

A spokeswoman for Waze told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that the app deters dangerous driving and is welcomed by many law enforcers.

Waze works in partnership with police and transportation departments worldwide "to help municipalities better understand what's happening in their cities in real time," the statement said.

"These relationships keep citizens safe, promote faster emergency response and help alleviate traffic congestion.”