Thursday, October 27th, 2011
By Margie Wuebker
Local sheriff's office adds new features to website
  The Mercer County Sheriff's Office has upgraded its website, www.mercercountysheriff.org.
The revised format was unveiled this week with the work being done in-house by technology coordinator Kory Hoffhines.
The new home page contains a link to NIXLE, which allows residents to sign up for notification of amber alerts, weather alerts and road closures through e-mail or mobile phone. Other new links will take the user to law enforcement or government agencies throughout the county and state.
Visitors to the site can report such things as mailbox vandalism and generate a report for insurance purposes. They also can schedule visits with jail inmates once the corrections staff provides them with a required username and password.
The new website kept valuable tools from the previous version, such as a listing of sex offenders and jail inmates along with their photographs. Visitors may sign up for e-mail or text notifications when a sex offender registers in their neighborhood or an inmate is released.
The tip line remains on the site, allowing people to provide anonymous information such as suspected drug activity or underage drinking.
A recent tip regarding a woman planning to leave the area despite probation guidelines led to her arrest at a bus station in Lima.
"Tips from the public are taken seriously," Sheriff Jeff Grey said. "Callers may not see immediate action such as in the probation case, but that does not mean we overlook anything."
A new feature allows people to communicate directly with administrative personnel, and Grey hopes communication with deputies is added.
The site also includes a preparedness guide for travelers, tips for safely shopping online, drug prevention facts, credit card fraud schemes, identity theft, home invasion/robbery prevention, road rules, a dozen things students can do to stop school violence and teen driving laws.
Specific sections outline the application process for concealed carry permits and for electronic background checks by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification or FBI.
Grey believes the new website will reduce the number of calls coming in to the sheriff's office and Mercer County Central Dispatch.
"We used to pay a vendor $1,500 per year to manage the site, and it frequently took time to make needed changes," he said. "Now everything is under our control and changes can be made as needed."
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