New alert from police

Fort Wayne Police can send a message to cell phone users in a certain area.

As Glenbrook Commons employees feared to leave their workplaces or were unable to get to their vehicles the night of June 27, the Fort Wayne Police Department used a new text feature to tell the drivers of hundreds of trucks to clear out of the retail area.

“We’re always looking at what we could do better,” Sgt. Sofia Rosales-Scatena, police spokeswoman, said.

The technology, used to send text messages within a specific geographical location, “piggybacks” off the Swift911 service already in use. That technology sends public safety messages to cell phone users who’ve turned on alerts from various governmental bodies in the notifications area of the settings of their phones.

After trying to clear civil rights protesters in late May after things downtown turned “violent,” according to Rosales-Scatena, the police department looked into more ways to communicate. It found it could use the geolocation messaging with government permission, which it received, she said.

“And it worked really, really well” last weekend during its first use, she said.

About 1,000 diesel trucks gathered the evening of June 27 in Glenbrook Commons, 4122 Lima Road. However, the shopping center is private property; the owner hadn’t given permission for the event, a truck rally organized on social media, and the trucks were blocking traffic, according to a news release from Rosales-Scatena.

Police were called at around 8:46 p.m., as retail employees were forced to wait inside their workplaces and/or were afraid to leave, according to the news release.

“Calls came in from stranded employees and customers stating they were scared to go to their vehicles,” according to the news release. “Officers assisted as best they could with getting people out of the area. The crowd was reported by officers as around a thousand trucks and several thousand people.”

After confirming that the property owner hadn’t given permission for the event, police used the new technology to clear the trucks from the area.

Police sent a text message that went to phones in a geographical boundary of Glenbrook Commons bounded by Coliseum Boulevard, Lima Road, Fernhill Avenue and Coldwater Road. The text message read “By order of the Fort Wayne Police department if you are receiving this message you need to vacate the Glenbrook Mall area immediately or you will be arrested.”

Police looked at Snapchat, a messaging app, that showed that a majority of the group was using cell phones and could be geolocated, Rosales-Scatena said. For those who might not have been paying attention to their phones or didn’t have them, police audibly told the group to disperse or face arrest.

Many of the drivers said they didn’t know there was no permission for the event, and slowly they packed up and left.

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