Norcross police pioneer text, e-mail alerts to residents

NORCROSS -- In an era where immediacy counts, Norcross police have latched onto a technology that puts crime, traffic and general emergency alerts in residents' pockets lickety-split, officials said Tuesday.

The Norcross Police Department is using a free communication platform called the Nixle Municipal Wire that relays vital, neighborhood-level information to its 12,000 residents via text messages and e-mail.

Coming to a pocket near you: Emergency advisories, neighborhood alerts and general information about road closings or construction delays.

The department is the first in Gwinnett -- and one of 3,000 nationally -- to employ the technology, said Norcross city spokesperson Tixie Fowler.

Residents with a basic understanding of computers can log in and sign up in a matter of minutes, Fowler said.

The service can reach up to 100,000 users in about three minutes. It works with all major wireless carriers and is compatible with 99 percent of mobile phones.

"We can send out a message to a single neighborhood or the entire community," said Norcross police Capt. Brian Harr. "What's really exciting is how fast it's communicated."

Residents can elect to receive alerts via e-mail, mobile or smart phones, Harr said. Norcross Chief Dallas Stidd said the service is active but has yet to be used in an emergency situation.