Filling News Gaps, Facebook Crime Pages Flourish in MN

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The Minneapolis Star Tribune profiles Phillip Murphy, a 53-year-old florist and “scanner junkie” who publishes neighborhood crime and nuisance alerts on a dedicated Facebook page. The paper says he represents a small but growing number of Minnesotans — particularly those who live in neighborhoods with high crime rates — who follow emergency dispatches intended for police, firefighters and other rescue workers. They monitor scanners or online livestreams and update one another on Twitter or in Facebook groups like True North Minneapolis, Northeast Vent and North Vent. The pages started as a place where frustrated residents could vent about rundown houses, wild yards, vandalism and ­loitering. Slow police response times are also a popular topic of conversation.

“I guess I consider this to be advocacy work for excess of information, since nobody else is giving it to us, we have to do it for ourselves,” Murphy said. “Without the information, no one will know and the problems will just get worse.” City Council members, reporters and other crime junkies are among True North’s 5,500 members. Police detectives sift through the dozens of updates posted every day for crime leads. Murphy recently began posting reports detailing the week’s gun-related incidents — shootings, reports of shots fired, and activations by the city’s ShotSpotter network. He said such information gets little mention in the local news.

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