BELTON, Texas (KWTX) The Bell County Sheriff's Department wants to stop criminals in their tracks and thinks it has the way to do it; a new virtual neighborhood watch system.
The site, BellCountyCrimes.org, is now up and running.
'It's just going to make it a little bit more difficult for criminals out there to accomplish their tasks," Bell County Sheriff Eddy Lange said Tuesday.
Residents can go online, report suspicious activity, add photos and video, and remain anonymous if they choose.
Law enforcement agencies typically get calls when residents spot suspicious activity, such as a strange vehicle in a neighborhood.
"We go out, and we try to find this vehicle. Sometimes we get lucky, and sometimes we find them -most of the time we don't," Lange said.
That call then gets closed and usually lost in a pile of other reports, but that will change with the new reporting system.
"We store every piece of information that comes in,” says Bruce Moran, president of Strategic Information Systems.
“Something that's not very important today, could be really important a year from now," he says.
The system will be monitored by his company and will pass on pertinent information to the sheriff’s office with the main goal of cracking down on human trafficking.
"Most missing children end up in human trafficking," says Moran.
Bell County sits in the heart of the Texas “Trafficking Triangle" that runs between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
If people use the system to report what they see, patterns could emerge that could lead to arrests.
"It really takes a community to fight crime and to fight it well,” says Lange.
“This is just another step in getting the community involved in a way that wasn't there before."
Information will also be sent out to local departments that typically don't share tips.
But the impact they hope to make on crime will depend on residents who "see something" then take the step to "say something."
The site can be accessed on a computer or the browser on a phone.
There are plans to create an app, as well.
Bell County is currently under a free trial period at no cost to taxpayers.
The sheriff’s office and Strategic Information Services hope to extend the system throughout other counties in Texas before releasing it in other states.