Sunday, January 30, 2011

St. Louis police uses Nixle to reach public

BY CHRISTINE BYERS • > 636-937-6249 | Posted: Thursday, March 18, 2010 12:00 am

ST. LOUIS • City police are hoping to keep the public better informed — and to generate new leads for investigations —by e-mailing and text messaging residents about address-specific crimes, traffic problems and weather issues.
Using a free network called Nixle, subscribers can choose addresses about which they would receive electronic notifications. It could be a home, workplace, school or other location, with a coverage radius of one-quarter mile to 25 miles.
The system is provided free for use by government and public safety agencies, said police spokeswoman Erica Van Ross.
She said it would be especially valuable to help people spot crime trends and to alert those in a particular area "if it's a situation where they need to protect themselves or their property." She added, "We also hope to use it when a crime occurs and a suspect is captured on surveillance, we can send that to people in the area."
Police Chief Dan Isom saw the program at a police seminar last summer and learned that other agencies, including Los Angeles police, are using it.
Locally, police in various jurisdictions already use Nixle, including Hazelwood, Florissant, Richmond Heights, Maryland Heights, Town and Country, St. Charles County, St. Peters, East St. Louis, Granite City, Glen Carbon, Maryville, Shiloh and St. Clair County.
Hazelwood police Sgt. Don Routh said the program there launched in October and has been used to notify residents of road closures, meeting announcements and DWI checkpoints.
"It's a very powerful tool, and it's free," he said.
St. Louis police have listed four categories of messages:
• Alerts about urgent situations, such as abductions.
• Advisories about crime trends and to enlist public help.
• Community messages.
• Major traffic problems.
"Sometimes the media will publish these things and sometimes not," Van Ross said. "What if that one person who knows something didn't read the paper or watch the news that day? This is an extra way for us to reach out directly to citizens without a middle man."
Anyone can subscribe online at Registration is free, but subscribers may be charged standard text messaging rates by their cell phone providers.

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