Want to see the latest tool in fighting crime? Look in the mirror.
And hold up your cell phone.
Police across the country are turning to Web-based systems to reach out to citizens via text messages, e-mails and podcasts to alert them to crime and get them watching for, and more importantly, reporting crime.
Visit CitizenObserver to see how the company is turning cell phones into police scanners and recruiting thousands of cyber-deputies.
Police departments from tiny Pelham, N.H. to Boston swear by the system.
Consider these observation by Pelham Police Chief Joseph Roark:
“It’s awesome,” Roark said.
If the village on the border of Massachusetts has an armed robbery, instant messages go out to cell phones and computers of anyone registered to received the alerts.
Maybe it’s a snow day and schools are closed. Another instant message.
Perhaps it’s someone going door-to-door trying to scam residents. You get the idea.
Roark said the system is far superior to Reverse 9-1-1 phone messages usually directed at land phone lines instead of cell phones.
When an ice storm knocked out power and phone lines for eight weeks recently, Roark was able to communicate with his cyber deputies via text messages.
“It has worked really well for us,” Roark said. His small department could never have afforded the time and manpower of creating a mass e-mail system. It takes expertise to set up and maintain. Plus, it exposes your computer servers to spam and viruses, plus the maintenance of updating lists when e-mail addresses go dormant.
The Wichita, Kan., Police Department is sold on CitizenObserver, too.
Here’s what their Web site looks like:
Wichita intends to create Watch Groups according to each neighborhood association in the city. And it is depending on those neighborhood groups to spread the word about the program and encourage members to become cyber-deputies.