Police use text messages to tackle crime

Companies will be able to receive alerts of crime in their area by SMS as part of a new scheme in Birmingham
Written by Wendy McAuliffe, Contributor

Police forces in central Birmingham have today launched a text message alert system that will be used to crack down on commercial crime in the city area.

Companies who choose to register for the scheme will be entered into a database and connected to a piece of software, called TextNow!, which will allow them to receive SMS police alerts about incidents that may be happening in their area.

The Birmingham force will be asking for two mobile phone numbers from security or management staff in each company, so that instant warnings can be sent out from the control room about shoplifters in the area or credit card fraudsters. The message will be sent in an SMS shorthand, which recipients will be able to expand by use of a glossary booklet containing 246 abbreviations. "SPCT" for instance will mean suspect, "IP" injured party and "EC1" white.

"We are not dictating what communications system people should be using," said PC Mick Hayes, from Steelhouse Lane police station. "No one should depend on anything, but we are certain that the system is reliable enough to enlighten people to incidents and crime trends in that may be happening in their area," he added.

Software company RedRock has developed the software for the central Birmingham initiative called PINS -- The Partnership Information Networking System. A monthly password system has been incorporated into the technology to ensure that the system is secure.

"This piece of software is ideal for use by police and has the potential to become crucial to stop offenders in their tracks," said Andrew Anderson, operations director for RedRock.

The Birmingham force is now looking at ways of expanding the initiative to residential areas, to include neighbourhood watch groups. "We are also hoping to launch an inner-city living project for professionals, that will send crime alerts to people living in business apartment," said Hayes.

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