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Two years ago, the Sheriff’s Department joined a growing number of law enforcement agencies that use popular social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to connect with residents.

Aside from engaging the public through email blasts, meetings, memos or the news media, the tools allow agencies to instantly send out messages with pictures, videos or links to more information online. To sign up, people simply follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook.

After the Sheriff’s Department joined the sites, Sheriff Bill Gore said he wanted to provide information more quickly to residents. The department has recently used the tools to notify people about upcoming meetings, rescue operations, investigation results and tips to avoid scams.

And as of Friday, more than 1,800 subscribe to the department’s Facebook feed and more than 1,500 people follow it through Twitter (@sdsheriff).

But the San Diego Police Department hasn’t made this same social media step. While most major law enforcement agencies in the state now have Twitter accounts, you can’t “follow” the San Diego Police Department.

So yesterday, I was especially interested to see this story by NBC San Diego about how San Diego Police are using social media. The story suggested police are now connecting with residents like the Sheriff’s Department and other major agencies across the state.

“The community at a moment’s notice can send a Twitter message telling us what’s going on at a certain location,” Assistant Police Chief Boyd Long told the news station. “Social media is one of the efforts that we see that drives our crime down.”

After reading the story, I sent an email to Lt. Andra Brown, a department spokeswoman, to figure out whether police were now on Twitter. No, she replied, not yet.

Because the department doesn’t have a Twitter account, people can’t send it direct messages. Brown said Boyd was actually talking about how police use what other people post on Twitter to find or investigate crimes. Unless Twitter users make their messages private, they can be found by anyone, including police.

Brown said the department understands the value of social media and is looking to join Facebook and Twitter before July 1. But right now, it only uses the website Nixle.com to occasionally interact with the public through social media.

The San Diego Police Department isn’t on Twitter, but you can follow Keegan Kyle, voiceofsandiego.org’s public safety reporter: twitter.com/keegankyle.

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