Originally created 08/31/97

Reverse 911



DECATUR, Ga. (AP) - DeKalb County has inaugurated a Reverse 911 system, a computerized telecommunications relay that notifies residents of criminal activity in their neighborhoods.

"It gives us a way to immediately get word of a problem out," DeKalb Chief Executive Officer Liane Levetan said Thursday.

The system will enable residents in an area to act as police officers' eyes and ears in identifying suspicious behavior that is the prelude to crime, officials said.

Purchased with federal grants and seized drug money, the $35,000 computer system can target areas as small as a single apartment complex to notify residents of crimes such as burglary, vandalism, auto theft and break-ins, said DeKalb Public Safety Director Thomas Brown.

The system also can be used to alert neighborhoods of hazardous waste spills that may require evacuation, prisoner escapes, lost children or announcements of neighborhood watch meetings, he said.

The system is capable of calling a number a minute.

"It speeds up the process of getting the word out," Ms. Levetan said.

The county will not disseminate information about violent crimes such as rape, robbery or serial murder because those crimes generate questions that cannot be adequately answered with a tape-recorded message, Brown said.

The system's inaugural alert was sent to 68 homes in Brown's own north DeKalb neighborhood, where vandals with baseball bats damaged a number of mailboxes last weekend. The vandals are still at large. In his recorded message, Brown warned residents to be on the alert for suspicious vehicles driving through the neighborhood after 10:30 p.m.