From posting real-time updates on traffic accidents and officer-involved shootings on Twitter to posting crime prevention videos and quirky crime news on Facebook, Sacramento police officials say new social media tools have enhanced their communication with the public – in much the same way community policing built relationships, says the Sacramento Bee. Lauri Stevens, a social media analyst who last month hosted a conference in Washington, D.C., that was attended by more than 60 law enforcement officials, said she considers Sacramento’s police department one of several at the forefront of using social media to advance its public safety goals.
Stevens tracks more than 800 law enforcement agencies worldwide on her Twitter site, @lawscomm. Agencies have had successes in using social media as an investigative tool to crack down on gang and other criminal activities, but they are just beginning to embrace the same medium as part of everyday police work, Stevens said. “It’s real early in the adoption curve with law enforcement and social media,” said Stevens. Toronto police credited YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for an increase in the number of anonymous tips to its crime stoppers hotline from 350 a month in 2007 to almost 1,000 a month in 2009. The majority of law enforcement agencies remain skeptical of social media use, Stevens said.