Emergency Text Messaging System Launches

Mixed feelings greet new alert service as police roll out Nixle.

On July 28, the Skokie Police Department sent out a text mesage alert that Andia Ymeraj, 22, was missing. It included details such as her height, weight and where she was last seen.

Several hours later, the department sent out another notice that said Ymeraj was located. The effort was part of the department's newly adopted Nixle messaging service, designed to alert residents to important happenings in the community.

"The text messages seek out citizens instead of citizens looking for information," said Anthony Scarpelli, Skokie's deputy police chief. "It is a means by which we can get information out quickly."

When an incident happens, such as a bank robbery, traffic jam or AMBER alert, police officials can activate the system and notify residents. The service is free and anyone can sign up.

While the program is less than two months old, residents and business owners are chiming in about the program.

Patricio Garcia, a Skokie resident and manager at Subway, 3457 W. Dempster St., said robberies in his area are common and a service like Nixle could give him the heads-up he needs.

"A month ago, they robbed me," Garcia said. "Then I heard the robbers hit up like four or five different places. I think it's a good idea. It lets each [business owner] know and they can try to do something before it happens."

Jim DiJohn, executive director of security for District 219, saw the Nixle service as a no-brainer for the schools and immediately signed up.

"I think it sounded like a very interesting concept to be updated on things in the community," DiJohn said. "On the Fourth of July, I received an alert about re-routing traffic. I think they help with day-to-day planning."

However, some residents aren't so sure about the program.

Esther Perch, a Skokie resident for more than 35 years, said she just doesn't see Nixle as something useful.

"It would have to be based on the age group," Perch said. "There are a lot of senior citizens in this area and most of them don't have cell phones or even know how to get a text message. "

Perch's friend, Don Hayes, a former Skokie resident who now lives in Northfield, said a recorded message might be a better idea.

"In Northfield, we get prerecorded messages for floods or fires," Hayes said. "I think something like that might be better for Skokie's older citizens."

Even so, in the case of a bank robbery, police can alert residents to the description of a perpetrator's clothing and what direction he was last seen headed, which can help "immensely," according to Scarpelli.

"Some people don't know that they saw something until they are made aware of it," Scarpelli said. "As soon as we put the information out, I think it is of mutual benefit to citizens and law enforcement alike."

Interested in receiving Nixle alerts on Skokie? If so, click to www.nixle.com and name the community in which you'd like to receive information.


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