Chicago police to text, e-mail public safety alerts

Chicago police now will be able to alert the public instantly about everything from child abductions to crime-related traffic jams via a cell phone text or an e-mail.
The Police Department has signed up for Nixle, a free alert notification system that sends messages to registered users. The service in Chicago went live today at
“We’re just trying to get as many ways out there that you can look at what’s going on at the Police Department,” Chicago police Superintendent Jody Weis said. The department’s use of technology will continue to broaden, he said.
Users will receive alerts about missing children, local Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meetings and community and business crime patterns. Messages might include photos. Users can receive messages about a particular area, such as the neighborhood where they live or where their children attend school, or citywide, Weis said.
He compared Nixle to another social networking service, Twitter, where users write one another in 140 characters or less. He added that Nixle is secure and anyone who receives a message would know it’s coming from Chicago police. Users will not be able to respond to alerts, but they can call police with tips, Weis said.
Nixle is the latest social networking site Chicago police have used to better inform the public. Last summer, police launched a Facebook page and a blog, called Blog 501, Weis said.
About 6,000 people registered for Nixle before the service went live Sunday, Cmdr. Jonathan Lewin said. The service is free, but standard text-message rates apply.
About 3,600 law enforcement and public agencies have signed up for Nixle since it launched last year, Nixle CEO and founder Craig Mitnick said.
“I realized that there was no vehicle … for any sort of official information to reach citizens in real time,” Mitnick said.
Nixle alerts also provide a way for people to learn about smaller news items, like missing dogs, that wouldn’t have garnered attention from the news media, Mitnick said.
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