ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Activist critical of Web site

A new Web site will automatically send law enforcement alerts to local businesses. But at least one person is unhappy that the Web site, CitizenObserver.com, didn't give businesses the choice of not participating. "I think it's somewh...

A new Web site will automatically send law enforcement alerts to local businesses.

But at least one person is unhappy that the Web site, CitizenObserver.com, didn't give businesses the choice of not participating.

"I think it's somewhat intrusive and overbearing to enroll the whole business community in something without asking their permission," said Martin Wishnatsky.

Wishnatsky, a well-known local activist, works as operations manager for Family Life Services. He said the credit counseling service wasn't making an official statement on the issue, but that he personally was bothered by it.

Wishnatsky said the Web site gave him a log-on name and password. "Supposedly you can use that and get out of it," he said. "But it didn't work."

ADVERTISEMENT

Some businesses might like the idea, Wishnatsky said, but "I don't like to see heavy-handed tactics on the part of the Police Department. That's what really bothers me. I think they should be very careful not to be overbearing."

But a police official said while the department issues alerts via the Web site, it did not provide a list of businesses to the Web site's operators -- who run it and decide how the word goes out.

"We don't have any control over that," Fargo Deputy Police Chief David Rogness said. "This is a private company that does business the way they want to."

Police departments from Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo and Dilworth announced last September they would participate in Citizen Observer.com.

The site lets police post information and civilians send in tips and organize crime prevention groups. It is free, supported by advertising.

The business alerts will tip off local merchants to scams and thieves who may work their way from store to store.

CitizenObserver.com President Terry Halsch said those who don't wish to participate can easily opt out of the site.

Wishnatsky said he had difficulty doing that.

ADVERTISEMENT

Inability to opt out nearly always comes from user error, Halsch said. "It should be a nanosecond for people to opt out of this thing."

CitizenObserver.com gets lists of businesses that will receive alerts from a variety of sources, Halsch said. He wasn't certain where it came from in Fargo's case, but it's often supplied by chambers of commerce, tourism bureaus or online references, he said.

Halsch said the system has been very effective, helping solve 13 recent crimes in the last six months in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where it first was used.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Pantera at (701) 241-5541

What To Read Next
Bankruptcy filings from the past week in all of North Dakota and Becker, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Hubbard, Mahnomen, Norman, Otter Tail, Polk, Traverse, Wadena and Wilkin counties in Minnesota.
Not only is the CX-5 recommended by Consumer Reports; it also has a five-star overall crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety “Top Safety Pick+” designation, it’s top rating.
Among the first place wins were best business story, hard news story, sports story, social issues story, columnist, use of multimedia, use of video and use of photography as a whole.
In this episode of the Business Beat Podcast, we hear about the brakes being put on a downtown Fargo development project and a new home for the popular Asian & American Supermarket.