Marion County sheriff hopes electronic kiosks help fight crime

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. —

The Marion County Sheriff's Office is placing 100 crime-prevention video kiosks around the county, where tens of thousands of residents will see them every day.

The kiosks are directly linked with the Sheriff's Operations Center by Internet.

Sheriff Chris Blair said when a serious crime is committed, or when there is some sort of warning or alert that has to get out, Marion County residents will know about it within in minutes.

"The most important thing is to provide information to the community quicker than what a criminal can move," said Blair.

Blair unveiled the video kiosks to a few hundred of the county's movers and shakers.

The kiosks, hooked up to computers at the sheriff's departments will flash instant messages to residents.

"I'll give you an example. If we have a bank robbery in the city of Ocala, Chief Graham's people gives it to our people. Within a short period of time, we'd have it on the kiosks throughout the community," Blair said.

Amber alerts, weather warnings, Marion's most wanted and even up-to-the-minute information when a sex offender moves in can be displayed on the multiple-monitor kiosks.

"It's creative, it's innovative. We want to bring it throughout Florida, and I want to take it to all of my colleagues around the country," Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said.

Kiosks are being placed in 100 business and government offices, including 16 Family Dollar stores.

"It's an eye-catcher. When I walked in, first thing I did was walk over to the kiosk because it catches your eye," said Mike Knizner, Family Dollar district manager. "People will take notice, and I can see it helping prevent crime in the neighborhoods because people will see what's going on."

The 100 kiosks cost $300,000. The cost is covered by the county's crime prevention fund. No tax money was used.