Emergency alerts come as benefit of being citizen

LITCHFIELD – Even though Police Chief Joseph O’Brien was vacationing in New York, he still knew about a mailbox vandalism spree back home.

His officers didn’t call him. The chief received a text-message notification earlier this month just like all other residents registered with a new alert system.

Litchfield police this May joined several area police departments in using Nixle, a service that allows public officials to send emergency messages to residents via cell phone or Internet.

At no cost to the town, officials can notify residents of downed power lines, a crime spree or any other public safety matter.

“It’s ideal, and they don’t get any spam with it, at all,” O’Brien said.

All a resident needs to do is go to www.litchfieldpd.com and click on the “citizen’s page” link. There, just click on the link promoting up-to-the-minute police information.

O’Brien and his staff have broadcast messages through the service about eight times, he said.

Recent notifications included a July 27 alert that a portion of Route 3A was closed because a motor vehicle accident had downed a utility pole.

A July 8 alert urged residents to lock their cars because of a string of break-ins. And a July 10 bulletin – the one O’Brien received on vacation – warned residents about a rash of vandalized mailboxes in town.

O’Brien learned of Nixle a few months ago when the San Francisco company sent the department a flier.

O’Brien learned of Nixle a few months ago when the San Francisco company sent the department a flier. The department’s tech support employee gave O’Brien a good review of the service, and the chief was sold, he said.

So far, about 270 Litchfield residents have registered, O’Brien said.

Nixle launched nationwide in February, and since then, more than 600 communities nationwide have signed up for the service, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston and Baltimore, the company said.

Amherst and Merrimack police also use Nixle.