Washington, D.C., police have launched a citywide text messaging system to alert residents about crimes soon after they occur and ask for their help, says the Washington Post. The system, D.C. Police Alert, offers a short recap of the crime, a description of the suspect, and instructions to call 911 if they see anyone matching the description. The system, advocated by a local business owner, became available Oct. 15. Business owners and business districts are considered the prime subscribers, although police expect individuals will sign up, which can be done at 72hours.dc.gov.
Of the 11 other cities and five counties in the region that have text alert notification systems, most use them for traffic and weather alerts, and they can be used for mass notifications in emergencies. The systems are part of a regional program that is funded by a federal homeland security grant. Citizens of Boston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Spartanburg, S.C., have received text messages about missing persons, purse snatchers, robberies, stolen Christmas lights — even a missing iPod, said Terry Halsch of CitizenObserver.com, a Minnesota company that works in 37 states on crime text messaging. In these examples, tipsters responded after reading the text message, and detectives solved the cases.