Sheriff’s alerts get community involved in fighting crime
After a string of home burglaries over a four-day period, Champagne released the full force of his office’s communications effort by sending out email alerts, text alerts and emergency phone calls. That effort may have paid off after the alleged burglars were apprehended less than two weeks after the first burglary.
Champagne’s philosophy is to involve the community in combating crime by providing citizens with as much information as possible.
"We can enlist the citizens’ help in preventing and solving crime by giving them as much information as we can," Champagne said. "It is our hope to let people know, without overloading them with information, and without scaring them that we do have crime and we need their help."
With that goal in mind Champagne employs several communication strategies to engage the community.
Champagne says his email alerts reach an estimated 25 percent of parish residents. Those interested can sign up for the emails from Champagne’s personal website at www.sheriffgregchampagne.com. Recent email alerts include those concerning the home burglaries, a warning about security system providers making random calls in the area to profit from the burglaries as well as alerts about car burglaries.
The sheriff also sends out text alerts that sometimes mirror the emails, but also have their own function in warning about road and weather hazards.
In addition to providing alerts the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office is one of only two law enforcement entities in the state to use crime mapping technology to let citizens know what crimes occurred in their area and when. The crime map for St. Charles Parish can be accessed at www.crimemapping.com.
"There are three different categories of crime. You can log in [t]here and look at the different icons and register to receive an email if a crime is reported within a mile or two miles of your home," Champagne said. "You’ll get an email saying a burglary happened at such and such address."
All crimes reported on the map are updated every 24 to 48 hours.
The sheriff also allows public access to information on who is being held in the parish jail and provides a victim notification system that sends out an alert when criminals are released.
"When that guy is released and booked out of jail you can click that and you will get a phone call, email or text that the inmate has been released from the Nelson Coleman Correctional Center," Champagne said. "There are certain inmates I want to make sure when they get out so I can keep an eye on them."
Champagne also releases alerts to his more than 2,000 Facebook friends.
"We have the same message I sent out by email. Facebook actually gets it out a little quicker than my email system," Champagne said. "I get people commenting."
Champagne said if there are any complaints about his communication system it is that there is not enough information.
"I can’t remember someone coming to me and saying ‘Take me off your email list. Don’t call me, don’t notify me.’ Nobody has done that to me," Champagne said. "I don’t overuse it. I don’t wear them out with emails. I don’t wear them out with text pages. When I send them something I want them to think ‘Oh, the sheriff sent me something it is important.’"
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