The system, known as Nixle, allows agencies to send text messages and e-mails to anyone who signs up for the service. Police can use the technology to alert the entire city or zone in on a specific neighborhood, depending on the nature of the incident, and users can customize which types of alerts they receive.
Besides New Brunswick, the South Brunswick, Edison, Plainsboro and Rahway police departments are among the local agencies that have started to use Nixle.
Residents and businesses in those towns, or neighboring towns, can start to get text, e-mail or Web alerts by registering at www.nixle.com. Standard text messaging rates apply, but e-mail and Web messages are free.
“In emergency situations we end up sending police cars out to make announcements over the P.A. system, or go door-to-door,” said New Brunswick police Lt. J.T. Miller, who administers the alert system for the city. “This will give people real-time information, so it’s just a quicker tool.”
Nixle is a communications company that bills itself as “the first authenticated and secure service” that connects residents to municipal agencies and community groups. The New Jersey- and California-based company has partnered with the International Justice and Public Safety Network, an organization that helps link law-enforcement agencies, to allow municipal departments to use the system for free.
Area police agencies said they were now making a conscious effort to attract Nixle users. Edison police Sgt. Dominick Masi said the township has advertised through its television station, municipal departments and school district.
“We’re trying to make every push we possibly can to let everybody know that this is a free service that will keep them advised of community activities and alerts,” Masi said.
South Brunswick police sent out several Nixle alerts in mid-March about power outages and traffic problems stemming from the rainstorm that battered the region. Earlier this month, the department warned users of two suspicious men who approached two 12-year-old girls on Barbara Street in the township’s Kendall Park section.
Township police officials said Nixle “seems to be the most government-friendly” of the different communication programs they’ve tried.
“With nine different post offices covering 44 miles of township, citizens can get specific information for their area of town by signing up,” South Brunswick police Chief Raymond Hayducka said. “It is our hope that through better communication we can get more timely information to our community.”
The Plainsboro Police Department has used the service since December to post traffic alerts and press releases about arrests in the township. Rahway police, like police in South Brunswick, have used the service to post “stranger alerts.”
Miller, the New Brunswick police lieutenant, said the department will initially use Nixle for “breaking events” such as road closures, extreme weather, major fires and other public safety issues. But the department hopes to eventually expand its use of the technology to inform people in the city about matters such as community events.
New Brunswick residents with questions about registering for Nixle can call Miller at 732-745-5259.