Are You Facebook Friends With the Police?

If you’re not on social media, then chances are most of your friends and family are — a fact that police are using to their advantage.

With an estimated 50-80% of all people from various demographics using some social network or other, it was only natural that the Hagerstown Police Department in Maryland would create an internal social media team to curate department Facebook and Twitter pages, which are being used to post community notices, updates with investigations, and Most Wanted photos.

“It’s just been a real, real eye-opener for us on how the community responds to the department through Facebook,” said Hagerstown Police Department’s Chief Mark Holtzman.

Investigators are saying it’s a great way to communicate with area residents in real time. The department can use citizens’ feedback to solve crimes at a faster pace.

Social media allows us to get that message out immediately, a lot of times asking for help from the public and then in return we get that information a lot quicker,” said Lt. Jim Hurd, a member of the Hagerstown Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division.

The Hagerstown Police Department isn’t the only law enforcement agency to adopt social media as a practice. Prince George’s County Police in Maryland recently planned to live tweet a prostitution sting. Gloucester Township and Mountain View’s Police Department is using Pinterest to help connect lost and found property with respective owners. The New York City Police Department also recently tried to spread goodwill throughout the community by having citizens tweet a photo of themselves with police officers using the hashtag #myNYPD.

According to senior program manager Nancy Kolb at the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Center on Social Media, police adoption of social networking has been especially rapid over this past year.

The Hagerstown Police say that residents have so far embraced their presence on social media, and they hope such high levels of positive community response continue.

“You want to engage your community,” Lt. Hurd notes. “The community is our partner and we can’t do our job without the information we receive from the community.”

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