New Police Tool: Neighborhood Watch By Web
The Internet has become one of the hottest policing tools, enabling police and sheriffs departments to become more effective crime-solvers with assistance from ordinary citizens. Last July, law enforcement authorities in the Green Bay, Wis., area sent email alerts on a home burglary–which included the lifting of a child’s Coke bottle bank–to local businesses, and within three days the crook was caught as a result of bank tellers having been warned to look out for anyone with a large number of quarters. And in Fairmont, Minn., the police department started posting the “Fairmont’s Most Wanted” list on its Web site and within one year citizens who studied the Web page produced tips that led to the arrest of nearly a dozen persons, according to Sgt. Corey Klanderud. Citizen Observer, a company in Minnesota, has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the trend of law enforcement agencies using the Web as a crime-fighting tool. About 130 police agencies in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Arkansas, and Florida are using its software package for sending crime alerts to businesses, residents, and schools and for creating virtual bulletin boards on fugitives, missing persons, and unsolved crimes. In Medina, Wash., a local resident was behind the idea to set up a Community E-Lert program that local police are using to email subscribing residents. As a result of the Web, North Miami Beach, Fla., police chief Bill Berger says citizens are more willing to help solve crimes because of the anonymity that the Internet provides. “It’s almost like it creates a veil, an extra level of distance and safety,” he says.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Christian Science Monitor (05/05/03) P. 1; Paton, Dean.