A phone message sent through Crawford County’s CodeRed emergency alert system concerning the capture of an at-large paroled registered sex offender took some county residents by surprise last Monday evening, October 21. The only other notice of the missing sex offender had been sent by CodeRed Monday morning to a much smaller number of residents—those who had signed up to receive alerts through text messages and e-mail.
While CodeRed is designed to send messages to every landline phone in the county or a smaller area designated by the dispatchers, text and e-mail messaging, as well as audio cell phone messages, must be specifically requested.
The incident began when police officers attempted a statewide parole violation arrest of Willard D. Tyler, 46, a registered violent sex offender, at 517 East Blackhawk Avenue in the City of Prairie du Chien on Sunday, Oct. 20, at approximately 11 p.m., according to the Prairie du Chien Police Department. The officers did not receive an answer at the door. They were able to gain access to the residence with the assistance of Wisconsin Probation and Parole officials, only to find Tyler absent and his ankle monitoring device cut off and on the floor.
An e-mail and text message was sent out through CodeRed the following morning, Monday, Oct. 21 at the request of the Prairie du Chien Police Department. An alert was also sent to area parents through the Prairie du Chien School’s Skyward alert system.
The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department was notified at 5 p.m. on Monday that a man fitting Tyler’s description was seen walking in the woods off of Bush Hollow Road in the Township of Wauzeka. Deputies responded and searched several properties in the area.
At approximately 7:30 p.m. a second sighting was reported on Dutch Ridge Road near Biederman Hill Road. The caller stated they stopped and spoke with the male, who they believed was Willard Tyler.
A Crawford County Sheriff’s Deputy arrived and made contact with the subject. The subject gave a false name of Tom Willard. An arrest and confirmation of identity was made.
Tyler, who was released into Prairie du Chien in 2011, is now in custody at the Crawford County Jail.
Following his arrest, a second alert was then sent out via CodeRed. That alert apparently was sent to all of the landline phones in the county to notify residents of Tyler’s capture.
“I have had some people questioning how the alerts worked,” said Roger Martin, the Director of Crawford County Emergency Management.
Martin himself received both alerts, since he signed up for the optional electronic alerts. He expressed confusion as to why the alerts were sent out through different means.
Despite the limited broadcast on the first alert, Crawford County Sheriff Dale McCullick said the alert was successful, though whether the credit belonged to the CodeRed system or the Prairie du Chien school system’s parent alert, he was unsure.
“Having the alert out definitely helped,” McCullick said. “One of the parents saw this individual walking and called it in.”
Crawford County 911 Dispatch Center manages CodeRed. The 911 dispatch director, Julie Cipra, is still looking into why the alerts were sent out by different methods. Cipra was out of the office during the week of October 21 to 25, when the alerts were made. As of Tuesday, Oct. 29, Cipra said that she had not had the time to look into the alerts.
There are 6,832 landline numbers in the emergency alert database for phone notification. As of August 1, less than a thousand individuals had signed up for the e-mail and text alerts.
Crawford County is paying $12,000 a year for the CodeRed emergency alert system. Their contract gives the county 20,000 minutes per year (about 333 hours) for making calls to the 6,832 landline numbers in the county database. Text and e-mail messages are free. As of August 1, approximately 200 hours had already been used.
Every single minute used conveying a voice message to any of the county’s almost 7,000 contacts is deducted from the total time allowed. If each landline phone were answered on a 20-second countywide call, that would use 37.95 hours or 2,277.3 minutes—that’s more than 10 percent of the initially allotted time.
The county has a three-year contract for the CodeRed emergency service alert system, which went into effect January 1, 2013. If the county goes over the initially allotted 20,000 minutes, it has the ability to purchase additional minutes in blocks of 2,125 minutes at 40 cents per minute or $850 per block.
For residents who want to receive alerts on additional phone numbers or to opt in for the weather alerts and email and text messages:
• visit the Crawford County online at www. http://crawfordcountywi.org and click on the CodeRed and CodeRed Weather Warning link; or
• call 608-326-0267 to leave a message and someone will return your call to assist you with signing up.