CrimeWeb puts police alerts online

Police receive alerts on missing people and storm warnings on their mobile PCs.

A group of police organizations around the country have banded together through a private company to jointly issue public warnings via the Web about missing children, local crimes, homeland security developments and natural disasters.

CrimeWeb Networks LLC of Dallas operates CrimeWeb, a clearinghouse that police departments can join to distribute public warnings, at Bob Piccione, a captain in the Mesquite, Texas, Police Department who is a member of CrimeWeb Networks LLC's board, began developing the project when he received training at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., in 1996.

CrimeWeb went into operation in July 2002, said Justin Anderson, technology director at D2 Digital Design Inc. of Dallas, who wrote the software for it.

Public safety agencies who join CrimeWeb pay a fee based on the size of the population they serve. They can enter alerts into the system, which CrimeWeb then posts for its registered users among the public.

'Right now we have 26 entities on board,' Piccione said, '25 police departments and the Alzheimer's Association of Dallas.' Agencies can also use the system to enter alerts about missing adults, who might suffer from Alzheimer's disease.

'Officers can scan in photographs using small PCs in their patrol cars if you have a mobile system like we do, and we can post that picture immediately,' Piccione said.

The system's police agency members do not need special equipment to use it, Piccione said. All they need is a PC with a browser and the CrimeWeb password.

The annual fee schedule requires public safety agencies covering a population of 25,000 or fewer to pay $2,000. The rates increase up to $12,000 for a population of 2 million.

The biggest city that has joined CrimeWeb so far is Garland, Texas, with a population of 260,000.
'We probably have sent out close to 2,000 alerts,' Piccione said. 'Our estimate is that we have sent notifications to 2 million people.'

A typical example of an alert is one generated when a sex offender released from prison moves into a neighborhood, Piccione said. The system sends messages that include the offender's picture, address and conviction record to nearby registered users.

Another use of the system is to distribute images from security cameras of individuals recorded during burglaries, he said.

'Also, whenever there is a flood or tornado watch, we send out [Microsoft] Word documents' with details, Piccione said.

The initial startup cost of CrimeWeb was several hundred thousand dollars, Piccione said, which was covered by local Texas businesses involved in the project.

He said the CrimeWeb staff has tried to engage the interest of federal agencies such as the Homeland Security Department and FBI.

Anderson said CrimeWeb initially was hosted on a Compaq ProLiant server with two CPUs and 2G of RAM, and quickly grew to two servers with similar configurations.


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