The Marion County Sheriff’s Office has unveiled a new method for distributing criminal information to the community in the form of stand-alone kiosks. Modernizing a concept used by Sheriff Chris Blair decades ago when he was a detective, a trio of video screens mounted in a secure housing shows crime alerts, Amber and Silver alerts, missing persons, sexual predators, and public service announcements to citizens within minutes of their posting.
The kiosks are connected to the Internet and information is uploaded to them by crime analysts. In addition to general crime trends, bulletins can be surgically sent to selected kiosks where it is determined the criminals or threats are specific to an area, such as a wave of auto burglaries in a mall parking lot. They can also be pinpointed to where the search for a missing child may be underway.
MCSO will be working with the local police departments to determine the best high foot-traffic areas for the kiosks. An initial version was unveiled last February at the Paddock Mall. All area law enforcement agencies will participate in the uploading of bulletins and BOLO’s.
Marion County commissioners approved the $300,000 expenditure of funds state-mandated for crime prevention. One hundred of the kiosks were built by OFAB Custom Manufacturing in Ocala. Beacon Software Solutions, also located in Ocala, provided the tech support.
While no method of distributing critical information to the public reaches all, a layered approach with mainstream media, Facebook, email, and now the kiosks provides overlapping coverage for the exchange of information between the police and public.
These crime kiosks are light years away from the old days when then-Detective Blair posted paper bulletins and Polaroid photographs on a styrofoam board at the local shopping mall 30 years ago.