WARNER ROBINS — More law enforcement agencies are using websites and other electronic means to communicate with the public to help solve crimes and let people know about crime happening near them.
Warner Robins police recently debuted an online program called “Police 2 Citizen,” or “P2C” for short, in which the public can review a daily crime bulletin, view and map incidents, access limited information from incident reports and view photos of wanted and missing persons. The site also allows access to accident reports at no charge, said Tabitha Pugh, public information officer for Warner Robins police.
The site is a joint project with the Warner Robins Police Department, Houston County Sheriff’s Office and Centerville Police Department, Pugh said. “It just allows more services to the public,” Pugh said.
The Houston County Sheriff’s Office recently added a feature to the shared Houston County government website in which the public may leave a crime tip. Each tip is routed to Houston County sheriff’s Sgt. Ronnie Harlowe for review.
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For a lot of people in today’s technologically savvy world, clicking on the crime tips section with a mouse and sending a quick e-mail is a lot easier than picking up the phone, Harlowe said. And it’s less time consuming not only for the public but also for the sheriff’s staff.
Although the tip screen under the online resources tab of the county’s website includes places for contact information, tips may be left anonymously, Harlowe said.
“We just want to encourage people to use it,” Harlowe said. “It’s just another way to communicate.”
Several other agencies also have methods of submitting crime tips electronically.
On the Warner Robins police website, for example, there’s a place for the public to submit suspicious activity. This e-mail link goes directly to Capt. Chris Rooks, who is over the criminal investigations division. Rooks reviews the tips and disseminates them to the appropriate departments, Pugh said.
Macon Regional CrimeStoppers is probably among the most well known ways in which law enforcement solicits help from the community. Residents are encouraged to leave confidential tips, and rewards are paid for tips that lead to an arrest. The nonprofit serves communities in Bibb, Baldwin, Houston, Jones, Twiggs, Crawford, Monroe and Peach counties.
The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office utilizes its Neighborhood Watch program that includes an e-mail notification dubbed “Neighborhood Watch Online,” Lt. Sean DeFoe said. E-mails are sent to participating individuals either for a targeted area or countywide depending on the nature of the information, he said.
The sheriff’s office may send out an e-mail to be on the lookout for a person suspected of being involved in a crime, or a member of the public may send in a tip about the make, model and license plate of an unfamiliar car seen driving through a neighborhood where there has been a rash of burglaries.
“I wish we had enough deputies and police officers to patrol every single street, but we don’t,” DeFoe said. “But having extra eyes and ears ... is very beneficial.”
Macon police also utilize their Neighborhood Watch program to send out e-mails and daily crime bulletins, while encouraging participants to submit tips, said Judy Gordon, the Neighborhood Watch coordinator.
Gordon said tips may be made without requiring a police officer to come to your door. She said some people don’t want an officer to come to the home for fear of reprisal from neighbors.
Gordon said people should trust their instincts when considering contacting police with information.
“More than likely, if it’s your intuition, it’s warranted,” Gordon said.
Agencies with websites offer varied services. The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, for example, includes a feature to look up inmates, and a similar feature was added this year to Houston County’s general website. Warner Robins offers a free Nixle service that notifies residents via e-mail and text message of incidents nearby such as a wreck. Houston County has a Code Red program that alerts residents via phone to severe thunderstorms, missing persons and emergencies such as a chemical spill.
Forsyth Police Chief Keith Corley said the agency is looking at the possibility of developing a website, or possibly creating a Facebook page. The Perry Police Department is now developing a website to include an area for crime tips, said George Potter, the director of public safety.
The new website, which will be shared between police officers and firefighters, is expected to go online in October, Potter said.
“A lot of communities are doing it now,” he said.
Of course, the public may always call 911 and local law enforcement agencies and leave tips that way, police said.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.