The Westhampton Beach Police Department has launched an alert system that will notify residents of safety issues and community events via text message or email.
The Nixle Community Information Service automatically sends notifications to registered residents within a quarter-mile radius when there is information relevant to their neighborhood, according to Westhampton Beach Village Police Lieutenant Trevor Gonce said. He added that the service is being offered at no charge to subscribers or the village.
Lt. Gonce said he learned of the system when talking to officers at other police agencies throughout the country about ways to better engage with the public. He said that Nixle came highly recommended.
The system went live on April 16 and Lt. Gonce said he’s already used it to warn residents about a downed power line near the Westhampton Beach High School and also let them know about a medication take-back program. Within the first month 24 people registered with the system, he said, adding that he has advertised it with signs inside Village Hall and intends to spread the word further by putting up notices at Rogers Beach this summer.
“It’s a good tool to keep people informed in the community and I think it’s a tool for us to help get information,” Lt. Gonce said, adding that the system could be used to give descriptions of missing persons or suspected criminals. “We can’t have our eyes everywhere at once, so it’s great to put out the information when we could use the public’s help and get some more eyes.”
In a press release, the department touted the trustworthiness of a system like Nixle compared to other forms of mass communication, such as social media. Suffolk County sheriffs and Suffolk County Police officers utilize Nixle as well, according to Lt. Gonce.
While the software is free to the village, he said that there are additional features that it could invest in down the road if the system receives a positive response from village residents.
They can sign up by registering at www.nixle.com, or simply text “WHBPD” to 888777 to start having alerts sent to their cellphones.