Kent Police will shortly launch a new communications system to link together crime prevention projects throughout the county. In the process it looks as if they could demonstrate the sort of community messaging systems needed for town and country ... and show, of course, just how pervasive crime and security-related systems are becoming.
I came across the Country Eye project on a stand at the recent Ruralnet UK conference, where PC Michael Wright was explaining that the system will enable news of crimes, and other alerts, to be sent out via text, telephone, email and fax to anyone interested. There will be a web site with discussion forums to focus on community safety issues.
Although the promotional focus is on rural areas - where isolation compounds people's concerns - the system will operate in towns as well, linking police, community Support Officers, Wardens, Special Constabulary, Parish Councils, Neighbourhood Watch groups. businesses, community groups and interested individuals.
The Police are particularly proud of developing a system than can cross geographic and bureaucratic boundaries, involves substantial numbers of volunteers, and links seamlessly to their internal systems. Getting security right on that requires substantial testing, so www.kent.communitymessaging.net isn't live yet. Apparently eight other police forces are interested in the system, so it may be coming to an area near you shortly. No doubt there are downsides to these systems, but I was impressed by the enthusiasm and openness of the Kent team.