Spa city residents can now have urgent police or weather alerts at their fingertips with the use of nixle.com, a service that allows residents to subscribe their phone number, email address or both to receive Saratoga Springs police department messages. The service sent out a test message on Monday, March 1, but was also used as a trial run when a storm emergency was declared in the city last week, said Police Chief Christopher Cole.
I did research about law enforcement on social networking sites and how it works. I came across information about nixle.com and thought this could be something really useful for our department and the city. There’s about 3,800 agencies across the country that use it and it looks like a good tool to get more information to the public without having to wait sometimes until the next day for a press release or media report, said Cole.
Cole said residents who subscribe to the Nixle service will receive different information than those who are part of the department’s Facebook page, which it launched in December and has gotten a very positive response.
`Our Facebook account is more for general information as to what we’re doing as a department`events we have going on, updating people on law changes which we feel may be important. For example, I had a link on there to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, given the recent law change about drivers under 21,` said Cole.
He said he doesn’t yet know how many city residents have subscribed because all that information is stored on a secure server tied to a national law enforcement computer/database the department doesn’t have access to.
Cole said he only plans to use the service for urgent or necessary messages so as not to overburden subscribers with an onslaught of text messages.
Many major metropolitan cities use Nixle, said Cole, and it seems to work for them so he doesn’t see how it would hurt to try. He cited a few recent incidents that may have benefited from this service.
`We received a phone call but no report of an Alzheimer’s patient struck by car on the Northway and killed. They had apparently left the house several hours before the incident and Nixle could have helped alert the public. We’re constantly taking reports of missing or endangered persons. If we get that report we can use Nixle to get that information out right away, along with photo if we have one available, and people won’t have to wait to hear it on the news or read about it; we can help save a life immediately,` said Cole. `If roads have closures or a tanker rolls over we can tell people to take a detour.`
Nixle.com is a secure site and will cost the department nothing to use. The only cost to the subscriber is any standard text messaging rate that may apply to them. Cole said he encourages residents to check out the site and said it’s a short and simple process.