By GRACE GADDY
Palestine residents can now subscribe to receive area-specific safety alerts from local law enforcement, as well as report anonymous information through the Palestine Alert Network, a new initiative of the Palestine Police Department.
The program will offer community members an interactive way to stay connected and informed through opt-in e-mail, text message and web-published public safety alerts. It also will enable anyone to report suspicious activities easily through a tip411 anonymous text messaging code.
Interested persons can sign up to receive alerts from the police department at www.cityofpalestinetx.com/tip411.php. Subscribers can then select the area(s) for which they wish to receive information, whether it's neighborhood-only or citywide.
“We've created a map with several subdistricts in there, and they would sign up under their subdistrict,” Lt. Jeffrey Powell, Palestine Police Department Patrol Commander, said.
While not a replacement for dialing 911 in an emergency, Powell said the new technology will allow interested persons to communicate potentially helpful information.
“I tested it myself live, right now,” Powell told the Herald-Press Monday. “It will send from your cell phone any information you want to give, and we manage those tips and can have two-way communication back and forth with the tipster.”
Persons can send letters “PALPD” and their tip to 847411 (tip411). When police receive the message, they can respond to the tipster, but all communication remains anonymous, unless the individual decides to include contact information.
Powell said the Palestine Police Department has no way to access the identity of the individual reporting the information. He said the program is “better than Crime Stoppers, which is a one-time deal,” not allowing for any communication between law enforcement and volunteers.
Citizens may also submit anonymous web tips by clicking on “Web Tip.” “And that takes you to a webpage,” Powell said, where community members can follow instructions to leave their tip in the system anonymously via the Web.
Powell disclosed that Phase 2 of the initiative will implement phone applications for both Droid and Apple platforms, which smartphone users can also access to send and receive information. He said the apps should be available within the next 90 days.
Subscribers also can get in on the action through the program's interactive crime map. When a crime occurs, Palestine police will add “crime points” to the map that uses Bayer Analytics — a system already successfully implemented in cities such as Austin and El Paso — through which a viewer will be able to view crime activity relevant to their subdistrict. Accordingly, subscribers will be able to report information that could lead to the solving of local cases.
Powell encouraged community members to stay informed via the department's Twitter and Facebook accounts, RSS feeds and website, which police will update regularly with written alerts, videos, photos, event notifications and more.
“We're getting info back out to the public in a very timely manner so that they see what's going on in the police department and some of the cases we're having to work,” Powell said.
For questions about the Alert Network or TIP411, residents can contact the Palestine Police Department Patrol Commander Lt. Jeff Powell at (903)731-8471 or firstname.lastname@example.org go to http://www.cityofpalestinetx.com/tip411.php to sign up today.