Alerts broaden net to catch criminalsWhen an 18-year-old woman unexpectedly left her place of employment about a week ago, the Park Falls Police Department issued an “endangered missing child/adult alert” across the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
When an 18-year-old woman unexpectedly left her place of employment about a week ago, the Park Falls Police Department issued an “endangered missing child/adult alert” across the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network.
It was believed she was in danger of harm and traveling with a 19-year-old male suspect.
Police believed she might be in danger of being sex trafficked, said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. She was located in southern Wisconsin later that day, he said.
“Because of the crime network, we were able to bring her back safely,” the attorney general said.
Other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies were able to find the teen.
Wisconsin’s crime network is seeing a variety of successes in stopping crime and catching criminals.
“A well-informed public is able to keep themselves safer,” said Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse. He said people are less likely to fall victim to crime if they know what is going on around them.
The Superior Police Department, like the Department of Public Safety at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, participate in the statewide network.
LaGesse said now the goal is to get more local businesses and people involved to share information about crime happening right here in Superior.
As more businesses and individuals get involved, the network can make an even bigger difference in curbing crime across the state, Van Hollen said.
“We don’t have as many members of the crime alert network as we wished we’d have, because obviously, the greater the network, the wider the network is spread and the more we can do,” Van Hollen said.
Authorized by state law in 2009, the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network is administered by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Since its inception, Van Hollen said more than 2,000 law enforcement officers statewide have been trained to use the alert system. He said the agency is also having success getting larger organizations and companies like Walmart and Kwik Trips on board.
LaGesse said locally they’ve used the network primarily with other law enforcement agencies because there hasn’t been an audience here yet. And he’s planning to work with the Chamber to introduce the network locally to businesses.
The way the system works is law enforcement agencies participating in the network send out crime alerts to participating businesses, individuals and law enforcement agencies, notifying them of crime issues, supplying photos, and casting a wider net for assistance from other law enforcement agencies in catching and stopping criminals.
LaGesse said a feature of the statewide network is that messages can be tailored to specific audiences, unlike FraudTracks and other alert systems the department has used. For example, if there are crimes that affect pharmacies such as robberies for controlled substances or false prescriptions being passed, the message can be tailored to go out to pharmacies specifically.
“It’s about having a network that can possibly identify criminals and take criminals off the street, and it’s worked,” Van Hollen said.
In fact, when a woman walked into a hospital in Ashland, and went from office to office, testing doors and stealing several items and credit cards, it was the Rice Lake Police Department that identified the suspect, leading to an arrest within 15 minutes of the alert being issued Nov. 21. She was charged with three counts of burglary.
That kind of information sharing is critical in law enforcement, LaGesse said.
“Sometimes when we’re trying to catch people, the faster we can do it the better, and this network has worked very well that way,” Van Hollen said.
After all, he said, if the Park Falls teen wasn’t found as rapidly as she was, he doesn’t know if they would have ever found her.
“The whole idea is we’re expanding the law enforcement network,” Van Hollen said. “And if people want to help keep their community safer and be a part of assisting law enforcement, for roughly $1 a month, they have the ability to do so.”
Subscriptions to the crime alert network range from $12 per year for one year to $48 for a five-year plan.
Alerts can be sent by text message to a cell phone, email or fax.
Van Hollen said the network is a technological advancement to the scanners people used to keep to help police when crime was happening in their neighborhoods.
It’s an inexpensive way for businesses to protect themselves and be philanthropic at the same time, Van Hollen said.
“This is a very inexpensive way for them to contribute to their community,” he said.
For information, go to www.wisconsincrimealert.gov, call 608-240-3597 or email email@example.com