Washington D.C. police launch crime notification system

The Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, along with the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency recently implemented a new mass notification system from Cooper Notification, which allows them to send text messages and e-mails to residents and business owners that contain information about crimes committed in their area.

The system, dubbed by authorities as "DC Police Alert," which is part of Cooper Notification’s Roam Secure Alert Network citizen warning system, will be used by law enforcement to send information to residents about alleged perpetrators in hopes of catching criminals and reducing crime.

To receive alerts, residents must first subscribe to the free service and enter in their contact information. Business owners who want to receive the alerts must also register their business address.

According to Ned Ingraham, vice president of homeland security services for Cooper Notification, the RSAN is simple for law enforcement agencies or municipalities to setup.

"It is another step in the crime fighting process. It takes very little time or effort to accomplish," he said. "(The alerts) are initiated with the click of a button, a template comes up for the communications officer, he fills in the specifics of this event and presses the send button. So it’s a very simple process to send these alerts out."

Though Washington D.C. authorities have chosen to send alerts via e-mail and text messages, the network is not limited to only those two types of mediums.

"You can (send a message through) e-mail, text, voice (message), XM radio, AM radio, FM radio, outdoor speaker systems, and indoor speaker and alarm systems," Ingraham said. "Through the Roam Secure Information Exchange, which comes bundled with an RSAN system, we have setup a national framework for emergency messaging so virtually any sort of message from any source can be transmitted through the system."

Rather than sending out a blanket message to everyone registered in the D.C. Police Alert database, the system also has the ability to isolate and send messages to only those persons who live within the immediate area where a crime takes place, thereby increasing its effectiveness by getting pertinent information to those most likely in the path of a perpetrator.

Depending upon how the system is setup, users who register to receive messages can pick and chose what types of illegal activity they want to be notified about.

One of the most important aspects in making a system like this effective, however, is the zeal with which authorities and cities market it to residents and business owners.

According to Ingraham, there is usually a spike in the number of people who sign up to receive alerts every time a message is sent out, but he added that there are several ways in which cities can get the word out about the network.

"Clearly, advertising the availability of one of these systems, goes a long way towards spurring enrollment and there’s a lot of things you can do that aren’t hard advertising," added Ingraham. "You don’t necessarily have to pay for TV spots, you can put information on utility bills, you can put bumper stickers on municipal vehicles and so on."

In addition to Washington D.C., Ingraham said that several other cities across the country have expressed interest in purchasing a RSAN.

To learn more about the RSAN system and DC Police Alert visit Cooper Notification’s Web site at .