June 2, 2004
Cell phones may get call to fight crime
Raghuram Vadarevu for the Bergen Record, writes an interesting piece on police systems that send text messages to cell phone users shortly after a crime is reported - hoping the public will return the calls -- and, in doing so, help to catch criminals.
A system such as the one that exists in Germany, could reach the US in a few years, as companies and security experts push text-messaging for use in public safety. They say it also could help during terrorist attacks, in other disasters and in searches for missing people.
But not everyone is convinced.
"At a time when police have so many ways of seeking the public's help -- television, radio, newspapers and through Amber Alerts -- Wayne, N.J., Detective Capt. John Reardon asked: "Do we need another?"
Reardon said police already get plenty of tips. And although more is good, he said, he didn't know whether police would have enough personnel -- given all of their regular responsibilities -- to follow up on all the tips they receive".
Others are believers.
"Paul Levinson, an expert on mobile phones and their impact on society, believes in the system. In fact, he said cell phones "are probably the most effective anti-crime medium in history."
"Crime thrives on lack of information," said Levinson, author of a book about how cell phones have changed people's lives. "Criminals work best from their point of view when nobody knows what they are doing. Anyone who witnesses anything can place a call to the police."
Companies such as CenterPostt already are looking at ways to send pictures, perhaps of missing children, along with the text".
For more on how police forces around the world are using SMS to fight crime, check out this category in textually.org.
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