ALBANY, GA (WALB) – The Albany Police Department has a new tool for fighting crime, and it works 24-7.
All you need is your cell phone. Using text messages and emails, Police can now communicate dangers directly to you, whether it's on your street or in your neighborhood. WALB News Ten's Jennifer Emert is here to explain why Nixle is as cheap as a text message and is a red alert for the crime near you.
Flashing blue lights, sirens, and police. Twice, Tim Underwood's Merry Acres home was broken into. The second time, teens smashed a window and were breaking in when a neighbor stopped them.
"Not only does it leave you with the sense that your house isn't necessarily secure, my wife and I contemplated literally moving out of Albany," said Tim Underwood, a crime victim.
He wasn't alone. Dozens of homes were targeted. Albany Police warned he neighborhood watch, but now they're reaching out to let neighbors directly in on the dangers.
"If you don't have a quick way to immediately send information to where something suspicious is going on, sometime that's exactly how the criminals were getting away," said Underwood.
That's where Nixle comes in.
"If we would have had Nixle in place then, we could have sent out alerts. Okay this is something that is occurring in your area, please be aware of this," said Phyllis Banks, Albany Police Media Manager.
How does it work? Nixle is a free law enforcement, government service and Albany Police signed up.
"It's almost like a Facebook, or MySpace type thing, but its geared toward law enforcement," said Banks.
Once you sign up, it's as simple as carrying your cell phone or checking email.
"It takes something that we utilize every day, text messaging," said Banks.
Police showed us how they can use the systems to alert drivers to a traffic crash on Highway 19, targeting the message to everyone registered or specific neighborhoods. The message delivery is nearly instantaneous.
"It takes just seconds, for you to get the information that you need," said Banks.
Had Nixle been in operation in July when a Family Dollar armed robber ran into a West Gordon Avenue neighborhood, neighbors would have been alerted.
"Just as fast as my fingers can type it in," said Banks.
Will the community use it? We shopped it around to other neighbors in Merry Acres. Chad Markert is just moving in, but agreed to sign up after looking at the test message.
"I think it would be a good way to help people prepare for things and to be well notified is certainly a service to the community," said Chad Markert, a new neighbor.
Neighborhood watch captain Pink Welchel was also in.
"Oh I think this is an excellent idea particularly for the young people, the people your age," said William "Pink" Welchel, Merry Acres Neighborhood Watch.
He worries it could be lost on more mature residents.
"The people in their 80's the old people like me they haven't quite caught on to this yet," said Welchel.
Remember Tim Underwood? He registered after seeing the service and found it was pretty easy.
"Couple of minutes maybe, most of the time was thinking up a password to remember," said Underwood.
You need your cell phone number, email address, street address, a little personal information, and a few minutes, and you're registered. It will tell you at the top of the screen as you sign up you can't get your text message until you enable your phone, so I'm going to go ahead and reply yes. Albany Police hope you will take advantage of what can be an important tool for fighting crime.
"The Albany Police Department can't do this alone, we need the help of the citizens to help deter crime in our city," said Banks.
With Nixle and your help, criminals will be running scared. When police send out an alert they plan to filter the information, giving you enough information to protect yourself, but not enough information to tip off the bad guys.
As of Thursday, the Albany Police Nixle account is up and running. They plan to use the system a lot over the upcoming holidays to remind everyone of simple crime fighting tips that can keep them from becoming a victim. So give it a try.