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In-house ingenuity

Officer David Babcock of Keizer Police is the in-house computer guru at the agency. So when the department wanted to replace a system to notify citizens of recent crime, they knew exactly who to ask. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

A Keizer Police officer figured out his own solution to an ongoing problem at the department.

When a formerly-free crime notification service announced it would begin charging agencies some $4,500 per year, brass at the Keizer Police Department concluded it simply wasn’t in the budget.

So Sgt. Lance Inman turned in-house to Officer David Babcock, a 21-year Keizer Police veteran who picked up computer programming on the side.

The new system allows for text message and email updates about “whatever we want to inform (subscribers) of,” Babcock said. To register visit keizerpd.com and click on the “Electronic Notification System” link.

“Especially in today’s age, with everybody wanting information right now – parade information, street closures, media releases – we can send all that out through the system,” he said.

Police were able to notify subscribers of a recent home invasion and assault in west Keizer, notifying the public to keep an eye out.

“It’s run on our server, with our databases, our email server – it all goes out in-house,” Babcock said.

Babcock is an Anchorage native who moved to the lower 48 to attend school at the University of Nevada-Reno. His dad, Rodney, was a field engineer and “I like building things,” Babcock said.
“I guess he got me interested in computers into a young age (but) I didn’t really take an interest until I got to college,” he said. “Thought I’d play with it, started learning how to build a web page, and learned it the hard way – just looked at the code and figured it out.”

His programming skills got a boost when he and dad opened a flower bulb business over the internet. He said none of the web-based transaction systems worked for their particular business, so he learned how to build his own. In the meantime, he joined Keizer Police in 1990.

He’s completely self-taught, advising those who want to learn to work with HTML, Javascript, DHTML, active server pages, databasing and more to “do like I did – read books. I have a library … of just textbooks on how to program.

“I spend a lot of time at Borders,” he added.

The service was built during some of his own free time as well as between taking calls at work. His disregard for sleep – “four or five hours a night” – probably helps.

“I think programming goes along with my need to build stuff,” Babcock said. “At home I weld, I work on cars … right now I’m teaching myself Java so I can write applications for smart phones.”