A Toledo councilman Thursday unveiled a text alert program he said would take the Block Watch concept to a new, digital level — allowing Old Orchard residents to know soon after a crime was reported.
District 5 Councilman Tom Waniewski, an ardent technology enthusiast, spearheaded development of the program called Eye Citizen, which provides text messages of crimes reported within the Old Orchard neighborhood of West Toledo.
Mr. Waniewski said people who sign up will get up-to-date information texted to their cell phone regarding neighborhood police activity, much like a physical block watch would provide. The alerts will have a 15-minute delay but he said he expects texts to eventually be sent in real time.
“If we could bring this citywide, I think that would be a good thing,” he said. “We are hoping that, even if it's 15 minutes later, [people] will remember what they saw.”
That could include a suspicious person or vehicle at a residence where a break-in was reported, Mr. Waniewski said.
The program has cost the city just $500 for the Northwest Ohio Regional Information System to develop programming, he said.
The program takes coded information that dispatchers put into the police communications system, filters it for location and content, and sends it out to people’s phones.
Only crimes such as burglaries, break-ins, and shootings prompt an alert, and they would have to occur within the Old Orchard neighborhood.
Old Orchard is not considered a crime-ridden area, but residents of the neighborhood, which is close to the University of Toledo, were shocked last summer when a woman was raped and stabbed in the area.
Mr. Waniewski said a tech-savvy friend and former business partner, Dave Bonitati, helped develop the program.
People can sign up at www.eyecitizen.org.