Public information statements from the Anchorage Police Department to citizens in the form of text messages or emails are now available from a subscription-based service, the department announced Tuesday.
Subscribers can sign up online for the free service, called Nixle, to get notifications on police activity and community events, among other things, police spokeswoman Dani Myren said.
Nixle separates messages based on the level of urgency to the public, and allows users to select which of the streams they want to receive, from highest to lowest urgency: alerts, advisories, community messages. The sign-up page can be found at www.nixle.com, where users can also see a list of notifications.
An alert, Myren said, might include a notice of an abducted child or a dangerous wanted suspect. Advisories would be information on, for example, a street closure, she said. Users of the Anchorage police Nixle channel could expect more general public service announcements in the community messages, Myren said.
"Historically, every message that came out of the police department went through traditional (news) media. And just like Facebook and Twitter, this is a more direct communication method," Myren said. "Obviously it pushes our information straight from the source, and if we're able to push it faster, we feel there's value in that and the public will appreciate that as well. But it's not a way of carving out the (news) media, it's just one more way of communicating directly with the public."
In Alaska, the Fairbanks Police Department and Kodiak Police Department, among others, are using Nixle. Larger police forces, including the Los Angeles Police Department and Chicago Police Department, also disseminate information through Nixle in the Lower 48.
Upgrades to Nixle to get more features carry a price tag, but the entry-level version Anchorage police are using comes at no cost to the city, Myren said.
It could, she said, create more work for the police department's public information officers, herself included.
"I think any time you add additional features, there's a work burden involved. However, our overall goal for the last year is to improve communication channels with the community," Myren said. "This is one more step."
By CASEY GROVE