Police Department to use new text, email info service

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 31, 2012

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BIRMINGHAM — What could make people feel safer than their local police department personally sending messages to their cellphones and email to update them on emergency situations nearby? In Birmingham, the plan is to do just that.

As of Jan. 20, the Birmingham Police Department will utilize a new communications service called Nixle, designed to deliver messages directly to subscribers via text message or email. The notifications can also be seen online at www.Nixle.com. The service is free to all community members.

“It’s a one-way information path. A lot of police departments use Nixle,” said Cmdr. Terry Kiernan. “When a series of crimes happens in a certain area, you can blast it out to anyone who wants to get these messages.”

Notifications sent to residents could include missing person reports, alerts about critical events in town, or information concerning crime prevention, such as an increase in thefts from cars or homes in a certain area, or a description of a suspect involved in a local crime.

Kiernan said that, oftentimes, when a crime is committed, the perpetrators are caught with the help of the public. With the new alert system, the community will become aware of incidents more quickly, so they can be on guard and report any information that may help.

“Anytime you get the public involved, it just makes our lives easier, because we can’t be everywhere at once. So we can blast out information on certain types of crimes, and the people out there are going to call us saying ‘Yeah, I saw someone that matched that description.’ Nine out of 10 times, that’s how we catch these people,” Kiernan said.

He added that other pertinent information, including weather emergencies and street closings, can be received by residents who subscribe.

“This is a technology that the city’s been looking at for some time, and we’re happy to be able to offer it now to the community,” said Assistant City Manager Joe Valentine. “To have instant communication with residents on emergency issues should help in keeping everyone informed and making everyone aware of a particular situation.”

He added, “It’s one of those services that we hope we don’t have to use very often, but we’re glad to have it to serve residents of the community.”

To subscribe to Nixle, visit www.Nixle.com or send a text message with the Birmingham ZIP code, 48009, to 888777.

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