Businesses in Richland having problems with shoplifters or fraudulent transactions can soon log onto a new website launched by Richland police and share details with other businesses.
Richland Police Chief Chris Skinner unveiled Richland Shield on Tuesday, calling it a private-public partnership that takes advantage of technology to help bring the community together.
"It's an online collaboration tool that is unique to the area and unique to the state," Skinner said. "It's an opportunity for people to come together and share information."
Richland Shield was developed in partnership with Microsoft and HAPO Community Credit Union and Windermere Tri-Cities through their Community Enrichment Foundation.
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Skinner provided information about the new program Tuesday morning at Richland City Hall, while also accepting a $15,000 donation from the Community Enrichment Foundation.
The donation will be used to buy Taser stun guns and allow the department to equip all its uniformed officers with Tasers, the chief said.
Officers on patrol, in schools and in the Street Crimes Unit have had access to Tasers, but they had to be checked out at the start of each shift and turned in at the end. They now will have a Taser individually assigned to them.
As for Richland Shield, the goal is to allow businesses, neighborhood associations and block watch groups let each other and police know what's going on around them.
There will be three sections -- one for businesses, one for neighborhoods and one for law enforcement -- that people can sign up to become members of and get alerts about crime through text messages or emails.
"The great thing about this is it's done by the community," said Sgt. Tony Striefel, who led the development of Richland Shield.
It's not a replacement for calling 911 and reporting the problem -- especially if there's a crime in progress, he said. But it is a way to let residents in the next neighborhood over know that homes were tagged with graffiti and post pictures and a description of when it happened, he said.
Other people down the street may not have had graffiti in their neighborhood, but they may have seen something suspicious around the same time and can add to the report.
Businesses, for example, could post pictures and a description of someone trying to return an item under suspicious circumstances and send an alert to other similar businesses in town.
Richland officers also will go online to monitor the reports and respond, when they can, with updates "to let the community know we're aware this was going on," Striefel said.
It also gives officers a chance to reach out to a whole neighborhood -- or a whole group of businesses -- at one time and eliminates the need to go door-to-door.
The site will start with a training group of select businesses to get a feel for how it runs and work any kinks, he said. Richland police will then expand the membership groups over the next few months.
It's a secure site, and members will have to be approved by Richland police to get access to the information posted online.
For more information on how to sign up, go to richlandshield.org.