The Chicago Police Department is now joining the social media scene by using text messaging.

The department is using an alert based tool called Nixle. With Nixle, you can receive trusted, real-time neighborhood information directly from the Chicago Police Department. You can stay connected to what’s happening in Chicago and other locations that are relevant to your interest. You choose the information you want, from urgent public safety alerts to community information. You can receive the alerts via text, email, or web.

Users sign up for the free alert system by texting a zip code for which they’d like alerts to 888 777. A reply from the service confirms enrollment of which multiple zip codes can be followed. You may also sign up through the City of Chicago’s website.

The department can select a city-wide alert if it’s an issue that would affect all Chicago subscribers, or if it is a neighborhood specific alert, it can be adjusted to the geography of that targeted area. Subscribers with picture enabled phones will be able to receive mug shots and suspect sketches texted to them as well. The department now has the ability to alert the public instantly about everything from child abductions to upcoming police check points throughout the city. Users will not be able to respond to alerts, but they can call police with tips.

The department estimated over 9,000 subscribers since the program launched at the end of January. Twitter was considered for the alerts, but police officials were concerned about the security of the account and feared it could be hacked easily. Nixle was choosen over Twitter because its servers are kept at a secure, undisclosed location in Virginia.

Sign up for City of Chicago alerts.

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