By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Our View: Crime alert program proposal worth pursuing
Placeholder Image
Wisconsin Attorney J.B. Van Hollen on Wednesday introduced the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network, a fax and e-mail system that enables local law enforcement to alert participating businesses of criminal activity or notify them of a missing person.

Any opportunity to make the state safer without a cost to taxpayers is a plan worthy of support.

Van Hollen said it will cost about $125,000 to operate the system. The money would come from charging an annual fee to each voluntarily participating private member.

Minnesota's 10,000 crime alert participants are charged a $12 annual fee. That's a small price to pay to be part of a 15-year-old network that, according to legislative co-sponsors Sen. Jeff Plale, D-South Milwaukee, and Rep. Gary Bies, R-Sister Bay, has facilitated the capture of more than 60 criminals who caused nearly $3 million in property crimes.

In Van Hollen's plan, Department of Justice-trained law enforcement would write messages that would be sent through a private contractor to participant businesses and members of the community via e-mail or fax.

Missing people alerts would be blasted statewide. Others could be tailored to specific types of businesses and regions. Pharmacies could be warned about thefts of certain prescription drugs in their area and take steps to prevent theft and look for suspects. Companies that buy scrap metal in Milwaukee could be warned to watch out for large amounts of metal stolen from Door County.

"By providing appropriate information to private citizens about criminal activity, law enforcement increases its eyes and ears, resulting in more suspects being caught and more missing children being recovered," Van Hollen said. "The network will be a major step forward in assisting local law enforcement in their everyday quest to protect the citizens of Wisconsin."

And at no cost to taxpayers. Until the program is self-sustaining, Van Hollen pledged to the Assembly Criminal Justice Committee to use DOJ discretionary settlement funds to start the program while members sign up.

Once launched, Van Hollen believes many businesses will pay the annual fee. He said there's an intrinsic interest in participating, because it would protect staff and inventory.

Despite widespread support, it is unclear whether the bill will clear both houses of the Legislature before lawmakers adjourn in a few weeks. The plan received its first public hearing in front of an Assembly committee Wednesday and has several more hurdles to clear.

Bies, who is a retired sheriff's deputy in Door County, said he was optimistic.

"We have support on both sides," he said. "I think this is something we can get done real quick."

That would be a win-win for everyone involved.