LocalSYR

Local police use social media as a crime-fighting tool

Police are still trying to figure out why a gunman opened fire in a Columbia, Maryland mall Saturday, killing two people, before killing himself. The responding agency was able to keep the community up to date through social media tools. This tactic is helping police across the country and CNY fight crime.
DeWitt (WSYR-TV) -- Police are still trying to figure out why a gunman opened fire in a Columbia, Maryland mall Saturday, killing two people, before killing himself. The Howard County Police Department, which was the local police agency responding to the shooting, was able to keep the community up to date through social media tools.

"There has been a shooting incident at the Columbia mall. No additional details yet.." That was the first tweet Howard County Police Department sent out this morning, just moments after the shooting. That message was retweeted more than 400 times.

This is not the first time police have used Facebook or Twitter during an emergency. Here in Central New York, several local police departments use Facebook, Twitter, and even cell phone apps as crime fighting tools.

"People want to know information, they want to know it immediately and this is a platform we can use," says Chief Gene Conway, DeWitt Police Department.

Chief Conway says utilizing social media has helped the DeWitt Police Department solve more than 50 crimes over the last year, ranging from larcenies to robberies and burglaries.

"We send out information immediately to them and it alerts them and/or asks them to respond with any information they may have," says Chief Conway.

Dewitt Police use Facebook and Twitter, but their most used social media tool: a cell phone app that sends you alerts. Its called MyPD and you can download it from the App Store on a smart phone, and select DeWitt Police Department. Chief Conway says about 3,000 Central New Yorkers are using the app and it's working.

Utica Police have more than 27,000 Facebook likes. Officers say within minutes of posting a picture or status asking for the community's help, they receive dozens of calls and many do lead to arrests.

During the major ice storm in Jefferson County a few weeks ago, Emergency Services set up a Facebook page and they say that's how they kept neighbors informed.

"It increases vastly the audience that can see that and increases our opportunity for someone to call with information that can solve that crime," says Chief Conway.

Below are some local police departments that use social media:

Syracuse Police Department

Onondaga County's Sheriff's Office

Dewitt Police Department

Utica Police Department

Oneida County Sheriff's Office

Ithaca Police Department

Tompkins County Sheriff's Office

Jefferson County Emergency Management
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