If there is trouble in your neighborhood, you would probably like police to let you know about it as soon as possible.
For many Michiana residents, that is possible.
There is a community information alert system employed by thousands of police agencies around the country, and it is called Nixle.
It is a free service that anyone can sign up for, and it can get alerts from the police to you in a variety of ways.
The Mishawaka Police Department has been using the Nixle alert system for more than five years.
With Nixle, you can sign up to get free alerts about trouble in your neighborhood.
Lt. Tim Williams says, “You're going to enter your address, your city and the zip that you live in, and when you do that, it will actually sign you up and put you in that geographic area. So, if an alert comes out for that geographic, it will also come to yours.”
Residents can sign up by going to the Mishawaka Police website, which has a link to Nixle.
The text alerts can be sent not only to your home computer, but also to your cell phone.
“The police department can enter something in the computer, and it can be sent to your cell phone. So, even if you're not at home, it'll still come to your cell phone, and tell you what's going on in your neighborhood.”
A public emergency in your area would be sent right away.
“Let's say Grape and Brown, something in that area, where we had to close Grape Road, or we had a suspicious person, and we wanted people to stay safe, it would go to those people right in that area, and they'd be able to get that information right away. Or let's say we had a silver alert. We have an elderly person that has Alzheimer's that is missing. We can actually use that, we can ask people to go outside and start looking for this person right away in that area.”
Some alerts would not come immediately.
An overnight burglary in your area might be sent to you the next day.
Unlike some neighborhood watch programs that use an internet list serve, residents would not have to rely on a neighborhood watch captain to get the information from police.
“There's no middle man. So whatever we put in here, if I wanted to do a press release, and I could send a press release, and I wanted everyone in this area to have that press release, I could send it out there, it goes straight to them.”
Williams says alert systems like Nixle arm residents with information that ultimately helps police do their jobs and makes for safer neighborhoods.
“If someone sees a car that looks suspicious, they may not call on it at first if they didn't get that information, and when they get that information, and they see that suspicious car they say, ‘Hey, it's not really part of the neighborhood. I'm going to call the police and have them check it out.’ As a law enforcement officer, we need all the help we can to make sure we catch these guys and our eyes, our best eyes, are right there in the neighborhood.”
There are four types of messages that can be sent via Nixle: Alerts, like a breaking emergency that is sent out immediately, advisories with less urgent but need-to-know information like a recent break-in, community information that would include events like neighborhood watch meetings and such, and traffic bulletins with very localized traffic information.
Besides Mishawaka, the Cass County, Michigan Sheriff's Department, Berrien Springs Police, LaPorte County Police, South Bend Police, Bremen Police Department also use the Nixle system.
To find out if your local police have Nixle, give them a call, or just go to their website which should have a Nixle link.