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New System Allows Fayetteville Police to Call Residents in an Emergency

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FAYETTEVILLE — When you need emergency help, you pick up the phone and call 911. Now, one city will call you if there is an urgent problem in your neighborhood.

Fayetteville is the second city in the state to hook up to a program called CityWatch. Instead of going door-to-door, police can now get emergency information to several people at once with a simple phone call.

For example, if a child is missing, police will alert residents so they can be on the lookout, too.

CityWatch is a computerized notification system which can call your home with information you need to know. Fayetteville Police will use it sparingly so people will take the call seriously.

"It gives the police department the opportunity to give an immediate broadcast of a serious situation to numerous people at one time," says crime prevention specialist Bill Foster.

Paid for through a grant, police can now target specific streets or parts of the city and can call up to 200 people an hour.

Just by answering the phone, residents can learn about crime trends in their neighborhood, alternate routes when roads are closed, or be on the lookout for an elderly person who walked away from a nursing home nearby.

"It's an automatic search party, and if it's an elderly person, they can't get far very fast," says Ruthann Faircloth, a nursing home administrator.

Mary Jane Baker, 84, lives by a creek that often floods. She has had to be rescued from her home before and hopes CityWatch will give her more warning.

"It could help save my life and my dog's life, too," she says.

There are several drawbacks to the CityWatch system, including that people may mistake the message for a telemarketer. To combat that, the message starts with the identification of the police department. Also, it is impossible to have all phone numbers in the system, so non-published numbers will not get a call.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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