The explosive growth and popularity of social media has allowed us to electronically connect with friends and relatives across oceans and continents. The technology has given us instant access, and made the world seemingly smaller.
The same dynamic is at work when it comes to crime prevention and law enforcement coordination.
Recently, the Menomonee Falls Police Department helped put an end to a counterfeit cash case and brought closure for another department through the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network (WCAN).
WCAN is an electronic notification system that connects police departments, residents and businesses across the state. It allows local police departments to share information quickly, and remain connected.
When Falls arrested a suspect for passing a $100 counterfeit bill at a local fast food establishment, officers put an alert out on WCAN with a suspect description, which included a gold tooth. When the Manitowoc Police Department received the notification, they determined the man in custody fit the description of a suspect they were searching for who was involved in two similar counterfeit cases.
The suspect was eventually linked to several other violations around the state, and is now in hot water with the U.S. Secret Service and is facing multiple charges.
“It’s an excellent intelligence sharing network for law enforcement and businesses in the general public,” said Menomonee Falls Police Capt. Mark Waters. “It has on numerous occasions given us useful information with incidents in Menomonee Falls, which were linked to other incidents in southeast Wisconsin. That gives us greater capabilities to solve crimes.”
Since it became operational in fall of 2011, more than 800 Wisconsin Crime Alert Network alerts have gone out. Crimes in which the WCAN has played a key role include sexual assaults, endangered missing persons, theft and robbery. Officers report several cases that were solved within one hour of using the WCAN.
“Local businesses lose money and communities suffer when crimes like this one occur,” Attorney General Van Hollen said in a news release. “Here again, the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network allowed local police to share information quickly and identify a suspect.”
Menomonee Falls was one of the pioneer departments to participate in the notification service.
“We were one of the original agencies that jumped on board and did it. It is part of standard procedure here,” Waters said.
However, WCAN isn’t limited to use in police departments. Individuals and businesses can also receive email, fax, and text alerts through WCAN for $12 a year. To enroll or to learn more about the WCAN, visit the website. Waters said he’s been urging businesses throughout the community to join the network to stay informed and possibly prevent future crimes.
“WCAN is helpful for regional businesses or business owners with one location in Falls,” Waters said. “Sometimes criminals like to target the same types of businesses and reproduce their M.O.s elsewhere. Sometimes those independent businesses reap dividends.”
Waters said the department sent out alerts and information on WCAN during a spree of burglaries up and down Appleton Avenue in downtown Falls. However, it was local police work and surveillance that led to the eventual arrest of the serial burglar.