Va. Sheriff's Office Posts Electronic Neighborhood Watch

The Rockingham, Va., Sheriff's Office last week posted on its website (www.policenet.org/va/rockinghamso) a new e-mail based applicationdesigned to alert citizens to potential criminal activity in theirneighborhoods. The Sheriff's Office for two weeks has been developing adatabase of e-mail addresses to enhance policing efforts in itsjurisdiction.

Nestled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Rockingham averages aboutfive deputies per 800 square miles, said Bob Alotta, the SheriffOffice's director of education on informational resources. Alotta isreferred to as the office "cybercop," and was instrumental in thedevelopment of the application which he says is the only one of its kindin the nation.

"Every morning I come in and go to my computer to look at reports thatcome in from the night before. I see a lot of repetition. Things like abad check being dropped in one community and then a similar one writtenin another community," he said. Using e-mail, the office will nowroutinely circulate reports of suspicious activity and even attachphotographs of suspects or missing persons, when available.

"Recently we have had incidents of individuals impersonating VirginiaPower inspectors," said Alotta. "Today I will be zapping the people wehave signed up with the information. We even have a license platenumber." To populate its database of recipients, the Sheriff's Officehas consulted college telephone books and corporate offices, he added.

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