THE police have defended a £50,000 messaging system after 11,000 people have signed up to use it in more than a year.
Hampshire Alert allows police officers to text, e-mail or voice message people directly but residents must register.
Figures show just 491 people in Portsmouth, 305 in Gosport, 1,047 in Havant and 757 in Fareham and 10,256 in total as of August last year.
But Hampshire Constabulary, which paid £52,215 in set-up and licence costs, has said the system is a good way to keep people informed.
A spokesman said: ‘During the first year of implementation we have been training our neighbourhood teams who are now able to send messages and promote sign ups. It is not just a community messaging system as it allows officers to better profile communities using demographic data and focus targeted messaging, setting community policing priorities through targeted surveys based on peoples preferences for contact.’
He added that since The News put in a Freedom of Information request the number of users has increased to 11,635.
It’s very new and the officers are only just using it so the number of messages going out is gradually increasingBob Coombes chair of Hampshire Neighbourhood Watch
And so far 1,762 messages, comprising of 504226 e-mails, were sent out.
Bob Coombes, Hampshire Neighbourhood Watch chair and secretary of the Gosport branch, said the messages reached more people than the sign-ups show.
He said neighbourhood watch co-ordinators pass on the Hampshire Alert messages to their traditional networks, which include 6,000 people in Gosport and 12,000 people in Fareham alone.
Mr Coombes added: ‘It’s very new and the officers are only just using it so the number of messages going out is gradually increasing.
‘The other thing that Gosport do is we’ve got a Facebook page, we get the same messages out to people who are not on schemes, that’s an incredible amount of people.’
Kevin Briscoe, corporate communications and PR specialist and director of Briscoe French, based in Sarisbury Green, said he had not seen the system.
But he added: ‘Done properly this could be a fantastic local engagement tool for the police as well as generating invaluable intelligence and information for them.’
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Innovative approach to crime-solving can be a good thing, but only if it works.
‘Authorities must do everything in their power to ensure value for taxpayers’ money when designing these new schemes.’
Police said the system is under a constant evaluation.
Join here hampshirealert.co.uk