A company that was expecting $50,000 from the city of Toledo to expand a text-alert crime monitoring program citywide now plans to do it for free.
Mike Smith, a partner of Tele-Home LLC and the Web site, eyecitizen.org, said there is demand to expand the program.
“We put a lot of time and money into this and we said we are going to go ahead with or without the city’s money,” Mr. Smith said.
Toledo Councilman Tom Waniewski, the district representative from West Toledo, unveiled the text alert program in September, 2012, as a pilot program for the Old Orchard neighborhood. Last month he urged council to expand it.
A majority of council agreed to spend $50,000 but when Mr. Waniewski abstained from that vote it prompted many to question why. Mr. Waniewski later said he owns 1 percent of Tele-Home, the company he named in the council legislation he wrote for approval. Mayor Mike Bell then vetoed the legislation. Last week, council reviewed new legislation allowing the Bell administration to take bids from any company that wants to administer the program.
Mr. Waniewski could not be reached for comment Monday. He sent an email Sunday night to council and those on his newsletter list announcing that the program is available citywide.
Mr. Smith confirmed that it is available citywide.
“We have ways in which we can generate some funds and we will announce that when we are ready,” he said. “When the $50,000 fell through, since we have so much interest, we decided we are still going to launch citywide and take it beyond the city.”
Mr. Smith said the rest of Lucas County is next and other “major cities” have contacted the company with interest. He declined to identify the other cities.
People can sign up at eyecitizen.org to get information sent to their cell phones regarding neighborhood police activity, much like a physical Block Watch would provide. The pilot program cost the city $500 for the Northwest Ohio Regional Information System to develop programming.
The program takes coded information that dispatchers put into the police communications system, filters it for location and content, and sends it out to individual phones.
Only crimes such as burglaries, break-ins, and shootings prompt an alert.
Mr. Waniewski last year said a tech-savvy friend and former business partner, Dave Bonitati, helped develop the program.
Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said he was surprised to read Mr. Waniewski’s email Sunday night since he had the apparent conflict of interest that prompted Mr. Bell’s veto.