Law Enforcement Web Sites

By Eisenberg, Clyde B.; Porter, Brandon | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, August 2001 | Go to article overview

Law Enforcement Web Sites


Eisenberg, Clyde B., Porter, Brandon, The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


New Utility for a New Era

If law enforcement administrators were asked 10 years ago what role they thought the Internet would play in their agency's operation in the future, the response may have been "what's the Internet?" This once obscure medium, originally designed for researchers to communicate more effectively, has evolved into a communications staple for households and businesses. Recent surveys indicate that more than 153 million Americans currently use the Internet. [1]

The Law Enforcement Web Site Evolves

While most historians measure time in decades or centuries, the evolution of law enforcement's involvement with the Internet is only a few years old. One part of a police department's role in society is to provide various types of information to its citizens. For many years, law enforcement agencies have relied on traditional means of disseminating information. These standard proven methods include public service spots that appear on network and public access cable television, in newspaper articles, at displays at local fairs and expos, and in an agency's annual report. With the advent of the law enforcement Web site, agencies now can add a valuable information resource and public relations tool to that list. Even those individuals who do not own a computer or have Internet service usually can get access at their workplace, local libraries, or other nonprofit public resources. In addition to the public relations benefits, agencies can garner widespread utility from a well-crafted Web site, which now can incl ude information ranging from crime statistics to employment opportunities.

Going On-line with a Web Site

Regardless of an agency's size, it must follow several basic steps when creating a Web site. First, an agency must identify and understand what resources are available to it in the process. When developing new sites, agencies should remember that they should custom design their Web pages to meet their specific requirements. An agency must select a host server and register a domain name--essentially the Internet address of the organization (e.g., www.youragency.org). Agencies can register their domain names with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization that coordinates the assignment of Internet domain names. Agencies interested in registering a domain name or seeking Web site hosting arrangements can review a list of companies qualified to register domain names and provide Web site registration services within the ICANN Web site. Registering a domain name costs approximately $50 for a 2-year registration, but many packages or service bundles are available thro ugh ICANN-accredited domain name registrars.

A host is an Internet Service Provider (ISP), either publicly or privately owned, which provides a link between an agency's Web site and the Internet for little or no fee. The cost of using a private host can range from as little as $20 to as much as several thousand dollars per month, based on the size of the Web site and the amount of traffic it transmits and receives. In Florida, the State's Attorney General's Office provides free hosting to the Internet for law enforcement agencies.

A Web site can be as simple as a single page, or it may contain several hundred pages, depending on the scope of the information offered. When first creating a Web site, an agency must decide the purpose of the site. Will they use it simply as a public relations tool, merely highlighting various facets of the agency? Will it be self-contained or offer additional resource links? Will it provide interactive services to its visitors?

For those agencies that need outside assistance to develop and create a Web site, a plethora of companies exist that offer these services for a fee, which can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the size of the site and the various options selected. …

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