By Jason Massad
jasonmassad@reporternewspapers.net

Want a police officer to check your home while you’re away on vacation and then send you a text message to let you know everything is ok?

Well, there’s an app for that.

The Dunwoody Police Department is partnering with an innovative web-based public safety application called Interactive Defense. It’s quickly gaining popularity among city residents.

Launched in early October, the website already has participation by more than 1,400 city residents, said Officer William Furman, community outreach officer.

“We’ve gotten a lot of great comments. People absolutely love it,” he said. “It’s a whole new demographic … they might not use MySpace, Facebook or Twitter, but they’ll use this.”

The service, however, encountered a glitch in early use, Furman said. After testing it among various focus groups in the city, it became available to all of the more than 37,000 residents of Dunwoody on Oct. 4. The service allowed users to access some of people’s personal information unless the user opted not to allow that information to be shared, Furman said.

  • The new city website, scheduled to be operational Oct. 25, will feature a web portal for Interactive Defense, free to city residents.
  • To access the site, visit www.dunwoodyga.gov, go to the Police Department portion of the website, click on the Community tab and choose Interactive Defense
  • A shortcut to the secure website to enter personal profile information is http://www.dunwoodyids.com

The default was changed this week to keep people’s personal information private, unless they were willing to make it public, Furman said.

A popular function of the site is a feature called home watch. By creating a profile, city residents can inform the 40-plus officer department of upcoming travel plans and request that officers come by to check on the place while they’re away.

Patrolman routinely checked on out-of-towners before the technology, however; the site allows patrol officers to receive the information quickly and directly – a useful thing for people who give the department a heads up just before leaving town.

“It goes directly to officers on the road,” Furman said. “As they can, [patrolman] will check the houses and check the doors and windows to make sure everything is OK.

Residents receive a text message and an e-mail when it’s completed.”

The new software service, which will have a direct link on a soon-to-be redesigned city website, has various useful features.

For instance, officials hope the web portal will become a virtual, centralized location for reporting criminal activity, speeding and suspicious activities in their communities via the site’s message boards.

City residents can also store serial numbers of valuables – such as electronics and firearms – on a remote and secure server, Furman said. In case of fire or flood damage, that information can be retrieved even if the file cabinet is damaged.

Another novel function of the website allows people who use cell phones to allow police and dispatchers to know exactly where they are located in the event of an emergency.

Currently, someone who calls 911 from a cell phone must tell the dispatcher the location they are calling from. If they can’t relay that information, it’s a lengthy and approximate route for the police to receive vital information. In fact, after the legwork is complete the police will only know what cell phone tower the emergency call originated from.

With the cell phone identification feature, a city resident can enter in their mobile phone number and connect it to a home address, so that officers can quickly respond to a location once an emergency call is made.

“With this while the officer is sitting at his laptop, it brings up the homeowner and he has the address,” Furman said.

Bonnie Brucker, a neighborhood watch coordinator, in the North Forest condominium community, said that the website makes it easier to post neighborhood warnings, such as incidents of cars being broken into.

Before, she had to e-mail a changing list of 80 homeonwers or make a lengthy round of phone calls.

“I do one e-mail and send it to one place,” she said. “I was kind of blown away it would take the workload off of me.”

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