When Oakland police Capt. Anthony Toribio heard the details of Sunday’s shooting at a McDonald’s, the veteran officer did something he wouldn’t have considered just a few years ago: He turned on his laptop and started typing, says the San Francisco Chronicle. Toribio sent a description of the shooting suspects to the 11,000 people who follow the Police Department on Twitter, the 971 who follow his account,@area2opd, and thousands more who subscribe to Nixle and Nextdoor crime alerts. Within an hour, a woman who had read the alert called police: The suspects were across the street. Police raced to the scene, arrested the men and seized the gun used in the shooting.
More police departments are using Twitter and social media to connect with the public, says Nancy Kolb of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “It gives us something … more than we see on TV,” Kolb said of police tweets. “It is a nice way to give a full picture of everything it is that law enforcement does. We see law enforcement sharing stories that would never get shared in traditional media.” Beyond the Oakland police’s two official Twitter accounts, five police commanders regularly use their accounts to post tweets asking residents to help solve crimes or be aware of their surroundings. Oakland police officers are also increasingly using other online platforms to interact with residents, including Facebook; Nixle, which lets police e-mail emergency alerts to subscribers; and Nextdoor, a neighborhood-based social network that residents and police can use to communicate with each other.