Sandy police want residents to join an online program to deter crime

Sandy Police Chief Kim YamashitaThe city of Sandy is about to break tradition. Police Chief Kim Yamashita wants local residents to know their neighbors and watch out for everyone in their neighborhood — help deter crime.

It’s an old-fashioned idea that has worked for years; but now there’s a new twist to the old scenario of neighbors saying to one another, “I’ve got your back.”

City councilors agree with Yamashita that a new program — which seems like an electronic Neighborhood Watch — would be good for the city.

“We seem to be more reluctant to do that in this day and age,” she said. “I remember my parents knew everyone in the neighborhood and visited with most of them daily. We don’t have that anymore. And that means we are missing a key component of crime prevention.”

AlertID is the program that the police chief, all of her officers and city officials are promoting.

Yamashita says the program is a “virtual block watch.”

“What I’d like to see is neighbors get together and have a traditional meeting in somebody’s home,” she said. “An officer will come and show them how to use AlertID and set up what is essentially a neighborhood chat room so they can alert each other to anything suspicious.”

The program also is used for law enforcement to communicate with residents, telling them about any emergency situations.

For example, if there was a broken gas line or water line or major accident — and some roads were closed — people in that area could be alerted and told which roads to avoid and which would act as detours.

“(In the past), we have put some information on Facebook,” she said, “but not everyone is on Facebook. And if you are, you don’t necessarily get an alert every time something is posted by the city of Sandy.”

But AlertID has the ability to send information to selected areas or specific neighborhoods.

The idea of having a virtual block watch, Yamashita said, means it isn’t necessary to have everyone present at a meeting at a certain time. Instead, information can be added at any time of the day or night, and people can access the information when they are available.

The program also allows groups to have secure sites where they can exchange information.

AlertID information can be sent or received from many types of mobile devices as well as home computers.

That’s why Yamashita says information can be sent to affected people on a very timely basis on a mobile device — without going back to a central location.

That also means a mother going to the mall with her daughter could take a quick photo of the girl with her smart phone, and if the girl doesn’t return to her mother on a timely basis, her mother can send her photo out on AlertID to everyone in the mall who is connected. The photo shows the girl’s face and clothing she is wearing, which would be all that’s necessary to locate her.

To get started with AlertID in Sandy, officers will be hanging information on doorknobs and calling to gather local residents, either at a neighbor’s home or a public place. That’s when residents will be taught how the system works.

From there, residents of each neighborhood can continue to work together, either in someone’s home or virtually in the AlertID chat room.

Police also might be using the system when there is severe weather to ask people to check on elderly neighbors, especially those not Internet connected.

For more information, call Sandy police at 503-668-5566.

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