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Police department uses web to fight crime: Public can receive e-mail alerts

The Alexandria Police Department has a new way of getting information out to the community - through e-mail messages and cell phone text messages. The police department is using a website for governmental agencies called Nixle. Residents sign up for free to receive messages from the police department. According to Police Chief Rick Wyffels, the Alexandria Police Department is one of the first in outstate Minnesota to use this company, but said that metro departments and other governmental agencies have u...

The Alexandra Police Department has a couple of new ways to get information out to the public - text messages and e-mail.

Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels told the newspaper last Wednesday that it has signed up with an Internet service that allows residents of the community to sign up for free to receive messages from the police department.

For example, it could be an alert about a missing child, a message about a crime wave moving through a neighborhood and residents need to be on the lookout or an advisory about a road closing because of a bad car crash.

The website,, is for governmental agencies to use. It states, "Trusted neighborhood news and information sent to your mobile phone and e-mail directly from your local police department and community agencies."

Wyffels said it's a way for the police department to "share relevant information at appropriate times."

Here's what residents do: They log onto and sign up for a free user account. They enter Alexandria, Minnesota and then search for the Alexandria Police Department. After becoming a member, they enter their e-mail address and mobile phone number, which then allows the website to send messages from the Alexandria Police Department to their e-mail and mobile phone.

"The world is learning to live with real-time information," said the chief. "This is one more tool to allow them to do that."

Wyffels stressed that signing up to receive information is just one more source or one more effort in communicating with the public.

He said it will not be the police department's only effort, but it will be an enhancement to the way information is already distributed - through news releases to local media outlets.

"We want to continue to build strong community partnerships and keep solid bridges of communication with residents to help keep them safe," said Wyffels. "Our part is to give out information as expeditiously as possible when appropriate."

The police department won't be monitoring the site and won't know who the users are. It uploads the information to the Nixle website and then the information is sent out to the members.

He noted that as far as he knows, the Alexandria Police Department is one of the first departments in outstate Minnesota to use this company. Many metro police departments and governmental agencies use it, he said.

One key aspect, added Wyffels, is that this system is a one-way communication source. Users can't send text messages or e-mail messages back to the police department. If there is an emergency, residents need to dial 911.

In non-emergency situations, residents can contact the Alexandria Police Department by calling (320) 763-6631.

An example Wyffels gave is if residents received a message about a missing person and someone thinks he/she saw the person, they have to call the police department, they can't respond to the message.

Wyffels is excited to offer the community yet another way to receive information.

"This is going to be good," he said.

Residents can also access Nixle through the police department's website at Click on the link in the upper right-hand corner.