Police using new electronic service to alert city residents

TAYLOR —The Police Department is utilizing a new communications service that allows officers to send important, valuable community information directly to residents using the latest technology.

The Nixle Community Information Service allows police to create and publish messages to be delivered to subscribed residents instantly via cell phone text message or e-mail. Notifications also can be accessed online at Nixle’s web site at www.nixle.com.

Messages may include alerts on wanted persons, missing children, serious events in a neighborhood, major road closures and other relevant safety and community event information.

“There are some things that we want the community to know faster,” Detective Lt. Mary Sclabassi said. “As a police department, we need to make sure we keep up with technology and use it as effectively as we can. This is just one of many things we’ve done in the past year to keep up with electronic advances.”

More than 1,000 agencies across the country have tested and enacted the use of Nixle for their departments, including Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis and Virginia Beach.

The service is reliable and free, officials say. Nixle is not like Twitter, which is a separate social networking application. Twitter does not take geography into consideration, and it’s a mass system where subscribers follow an organization or a person. The Nixle system is secure group text messaging.

On it, messages can be sent specifically to residents registered within a quarter-mile radius, giving them the opportunity to receive trustworthy information relevant only to their neighborhood. Residents decide from which local agencies they want to receive information. Subscribers also can choose the way in which alerts are received, whether by e-mail, text message or over the Web.

There is no spam and no hidden cost. Standard text-messaging rates apply, however.

Nixle builds on the foundations of other public-to-public communication services, such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, but adds a key component: security. When residents receive information from the Police Department via Nixle, officials say, they know it can be trusted.