LUVERNE — The Rock County Sheriff's Office last week marked the launched of its new smartphone app, a tool designed to communicate with the public about local law enforcement activities.

"We're really excited to be launching it," said Sheriff Evan Verbrugge, explaining that cell phones are so universal these days, and users tend to prefer apps over search engines. As a result, it made sense to explore this avenue of communication.

Verbrugge began work on this effort a year ago and decided to contract with TheSheriffApp.com, a company whose entire mission is to create apps for sheriffs' offices around the country. Rock County is the first in the state of Minnesota to use this service.

Thanks to the app, "we can get sensitive or critical information out quickly," Verbrugge said.

The app offers notifications about weather, criminal activity, crash alerts and even COVID-19. Users can lookup jail inmates and wanted lists, as well as submit anonymous tips about crime in Rock County. In the week since the app's debut, RCSO has already received a tip from a concerned citizen, Verbrugge said.

The app also features a comments and feedback tab, where the public can report misconduct by sheriff's deputies — an important component, Verbrugge noted, given the nationwide concern about police behavior.

The free app is available for download by searching "Rock Sheriff" in the app store on an iOS or Android device.