The Juneau Police Department will host its first-ever virtual community forum on the Internet from 6 to 7 p.m. tonight, focusing on crime prevention.
Citizens will have the opportunity to log on to a designated Web site and get firsthand information from officers about how to keep themselves, family and property safe.
"We don't know what to expect," department spokeswoman Cindee Brown-Mills said. "The focus of this is crime prevention. What can we as citizens do to prevent being a target?"
The department continuously tells people to lock their homes and cars to prevent becoming the victim of theft, she said, but "People still don't do it, so we wanted to take it a little further than just 'lock your car,' but, 'here is some other things that you can do.'"
The forum will include some of the department's top brass, including Chief of Police Greg Browning. A handful of other captains, lieutenants and sergeants are also expected to participate.
"Everyone is interested, I think mostly in seeing how or if this will be successful," Brown-Mills said. "We're hoping it will be. We're hoping to get some great questions and be able to give some really good information."
An officer from Scottsdale, Ariz. will also be participating as an expert in a law enforcement concept called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.
Tonight's forum is the department's latest attempt at utilizing technology to create stronger relationships and better communication with the public. The department uses the social networking service Twitter and just last month created an "Ask a Dispatcher" section on its Web site to let people address questions they may have for dispatchers that deal firsthand with a wide range of community issues.
"We've had really great questions and people haven't used that as a negative forum and we're hoping that that's the case here too," Brown-Mills said about the program.
The virtual forum idea sprouted from a community group in California called Modesto District 6 that held a similar forum to address crime, Brown-Mills said.
"They actually invited the police to attend, so it was a little bit different in that is it wasn't sponsored by the police," she said. "But they had great success with that."
The department hopes tonight's forum will have enough participants so that it can hold similar virtual forums in the future to address community issues, possibly on very specific issues, Brown-Mills said.
"That's the nice thing about it, is it can be flexible depending on what is going on the community," she said.
Participate in the forum at www.twubs.com/neaumocrime between 6 and 7 p.m.
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