Date: May 30, 2000 "For Immediate Release"
To: News Media
From: Sheriff Lawrence W. Crow, Jr.
Media Contact: Sterling Ivey, 863 534-6377 or 819-0221 pager
Sheriff's Office Uses Automated Notification System to Remind Residents About Census Forms

The Polk County Sheriff's Office recently added a new twist to the traditional door-knocking strategy of the Census Bureau for collecting response forms, with pinpoint accuracy and high-speed efficiency only found in today's most advanced technology. The Sheriff's Office has in its arsenal the GIS mapping capabilities of GeoNotify and the Communicator, which is a high-speed notification system that has enabled the Sheriff's Office to quickly identify specific areas in need of notification, retrieve the contact information of all residents within that area, and then launch a rapid call-out mission to those residents with a reminder to hand in their census forms.

Getting area residents to turn in their census forms is very important to Polk County, which loses at least $100.00 for every person not counted in the census. This in turn costs residents in terms of incorrect federal and state funding for child and elderly services, health care, and neighborhood programs. It can also result in lost grants for roads, housing and law enforcement.

As of mid-April, the Census Bureau reported the initial response rate had already matched the 1990 rate of 65%, surpassing the anticipated response rate of only 61%. "Everyone we talked to about the notification system, including the Census Bureau, was amazed we could reach so many people in such a short amount of time," said Merl Bishop of the Polk County Board of County Commissioners. "Within one week, we were able to reach almost all of our targeted area."

Using the Board of County Commissioner's historical date, the Sheriff's Office defined the areas of low response. The data was processed by GeoNotify, made by the Bradshaw Consulting Services using ESRI's MapObjects technology to determine the name and phone number of every person, business, and public facility in the defined area. The contact information was then passed to The Communicator made by Dialogic Communications Corporation, which can contact individuals via phone, fax, pager, or cellular with specific information and instructions. This is the first time the Sheriff's Office has used the Communicator system in this way. It is typically used for community policing, event promotion, crime prevention and for public safety notification during times of emergency such as hurricanes or other incipient weather.

To enhance community policing efforts, the Sheriff's Office uses the system to alert neighborhood watch groups and area residents to such events as lost children or elders, suspicious persons or conduct, and recent criminal activity. The system is also used to raise community awareness for events such as bike rodeos or community activities.

During threatening storms and other emergencies, the system provides residents with increased lead-time for response, raising awareness and safety levels and improving a community's chance to prepare before a disaster strikes. This dramatically reduces the risk of damage to property and loss of lives, which according to the Federal Emergency Management Association, for every dollar spent in damage prevention, two are saved in repairs.

For more information about this and other community service programs, please call the Sheriff's Office Community Services Division at 863-534-0980.

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Distribution: Undersheriff, Division Commanders, Communications, News Media

A text only version of this release is also available.

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