"This letter serves to put you on notice that the NYPD has become aware that the Waze Mobile application, a community-driven Global Positioning System navigation application owned by Google LLC, now permits the public to report DWI checkpoints throughout New York City and map these locations on the application". It's putting "significant resources" into the effort, the letter said, and Waze users are gumming it up by giving away their unannounced road blocks and thereby helping drunk drivers evade them.
And the National Sheriffs' Association warned in 2015 that the app could hamper the use of speed traps and put the public at risk.
While the NYPD's letter primarily focused on Waze supposedly assisting drunk drivers, in a statement to The Verge, Google pointed out the feature is mostly for reporting speed traps.
"We believe highlighting police presence promotes road safety because drivers tend to drive more carefully and obey traffic laws when they are aware of nearby police". Waze doesn't provide the data itself, but allows users to insert checkpoint markers on a map and add information to the icon, such as whether it's a DWI roadblock.
We've also seen reports that Google is testing out some limited traffic stop reporting features in Google Maps, so it will be interesting to see how the company responds to the NYPD's scary-sounding letter. It demands that Google "immediately remove this function from the Waze application". The company installed Waze Beacons in New York City tunnels, which allow drivers to continue receiving directions, even if they lose Global Positioning System signal.
On Wednesday, the executive director of the sheriffs' association, Jonathan Thompson, said Waze's police feature seemed created to enable people to circumvent law enforcement.
"The NYPD will pursue all legal remedies to prevent the continued posting of this irresponsible and risky information", the letter added, which has been published by Streets Blog NYC. "There is no separate functionality for reporting police speed traps and DUI/DWI checkpoints".
Charlie Beck, Los Angeles' police chief at the time, wrote a letter that month to Google, saying the app allowed people to target officers.