Almost 25% of the city is signed up for VCU alerts. It’s time to build an RVA-wide system.
Inspired by Michael Bierut’s 100 Day Project, 100 Days to a Better RVA strives to introduce and investigate unique ideas to improving the city of Richmond. View the entire project here and the intro here.
- Idea: Richmond-wide text and email alerts for active crime and safety-threatening situations.
- Difficulty: 2 — Adopting contracts over $50,000 for anything in Richmond can be challenging, but VCU’s system serves as an excellent model.
In 2009, Virginia Commonwealth University started using an alert system for notifying students through texts, emails, and a website when crime is happening on campus and occasionally notifying students of other threats like severe weather. The tool has armed students and residents around the VCU area with a way to take control of their own safety and it has promoted transparency for the university.
From the perspective of students, administrators, and officers within the department, the system appears to be very successful. Starting in 2012, students were automatically enrolled instead of having to sign up. Richmond should adopt a similar system to engage individuals in their own safety and promote transparency for the police department and crime.
The system could either be city wide or done by neighborhoods for the areas not covered by VCU. At VCU, approval for alerts goes through the department and University Public Affairs. For Richmond, the process could be handled by the police department and mayor’s office.
If there is a murder in Manchester and no one is immediately apprehended, the city could send out an alert to residents south of the river. An armed robbery on Boulevard could prompt a text to residents of the Museum District. Severe weather such as the storm that hit on May 22nd with 60 MPH winds, large hail, and flash floods would prompt a warning to all residents.
VCU uses E2Campus, an alert system offered by OmniAlert that costs the university roughly $63,000 per year. The cost is determined by the number of subscribers which currently totals 44,483. $63,000 is a lot of money, but it would represent 0.07% of the police department’s 2014 apportioned budget of $83,916,665.
Even if the city is unwilling to spend the money, I know I certainly would be willing to pay between $1.40 and $2 per year for the alerts. The money could simply be added to city utility bills or could be purchased separately online.
VCU is dedicated to promoting a safe and secure environment for learning, living, working, or visiting. By adding Richmond Alerts, RVA can help better promote the same objectives for all of its residents.
Love this idea? Think it’s terrible? Have one that’s ten times better? Head over to the 100 Days to a Better RVA Facebook page and join in the conversation.