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Interest Growing In Reverse 911 Public Alert System

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FAYETTEVILLE — The Sept. 11 attacks have everyone wondering how to better handle emergencies.Some cities and counties are considering using 911 -- in reverse.

For the past four years, Fayetteville police have used City Watch, a reverse 911 system that warns people about road closings, flood warnings and other emergencies.

"We wanted a way to let the residents of our community know what's going on out there," said Sgt. Steve McIntosh of the Fayetteville Police Department.

Fayetteville police used the system Tuesday night to tell homeowners in a Bragg Boulevard neighborhood about a series of break-ins.

Since the terrorist attacks, hundreds of police departments across the country have become interested in the public alert system.

Mazarick Park Neighborhood Watch Coordinator Ed Lampkin has used the system in the past and wonders why it has taken so long for others to catch on.

"I can think of no reason why the city should not be able to talk to its citizens, certainly all the telemarketers are," he said. "Not everyone is watching TV, not everyone is listening to the radio, but everyone has a phone."

Critics of reverse 911 believe traditional police methods, like going door-to-door, are more effective. But that, too, is being questioned. In Fayetteville, a City Watch call can reach more than 600 homes in four hours.