Partners In Crime Fighting: How Law Enforcement And Twitter Became An Unstoppable Duo

Partners In Crime Fighting: How Law Enforcement And Twitter Became An Unstoppable Duo

It’s no secret that social media, and the Internet in general, have revolutionized human communication. The way we interact with others has completely changed, and so too has the way we seek and acquire information, hence why you’re reading this article right now. It all boils down to the fact that we live in a digital world and social media has become our trusty sidekick who we turn to for, well, everything.

Think about it; where do you go to find out what’s going on in the world? News sites do the job, but Twitter does it better. Hello… streaming updates in 140 characters or less? Yes please. How about when you want to dig up some dirt on a new love interest? Obviously an online background check is the most official way to go, but then again, there’s no shame in a little innocent Facebook creeping. Oh, and what about those old classmates who you haven’t seen in years? No problem; just swing by their profiles and boom, you’re instantly caught up.

So, once you realize the ubiquitous presence of these sites in our daily lives, it’s not too surprising that another group of folks has hopped on the Twitter train – law enforcement. Sure, cops and Twitter may seem like an unlikely pair, but that’s probably because most people just picture a bunch of tough guys sitting around tweeting about the flavor of donuts they’re eating. Luckily, police departments did not adopt Twitter as a way to disseminate pointless information. Quite the contrary, actually.

The Profile That Changed It All 

In order to fully explain the evolution of Twitter as a vital law enforcement tool, we have to rewind a few years to when it all began. On June 8, 2007, the Wellesley Police Department made social media history when they created the first ever law enforcement Twitter account. They didn’t know it at the time, but they were pioneers of a movement that would change the future of crime fighting forever.

Here we are seven years later, and Twitter has become an integral part of law enforcement efforts. As of 2013, there were 772 police departments with active Twitter accounts in the United States with a combined following of nearly three million users. So, this begs the question: How exactly do police officers utilize Twitter? Turns out there are several answers, and we’ve got the top three for you below. Read on to discover how our social media savvy cops are using Twitter to fight crime.

1. Relay Information To The Public In Real Time 

Part of what makes Twitter such a unique platform is that it provides a constant stream of information, which is updated automatically with each new tweet. This is ideal for law enforcement officers who need to get time-sensitive information out to their followers as quickly as possible. Before Twitter, police departments had to rely on media outlets to act as the middlemen in their correspondence, and it often took hours before the information was broadcasted the public.

Now, all the officers have to do is sign on and send a tweet. This rapid-fire method of communication allows them to instantly relay crucial updates to the public about weather, road closures, crime warnings, suspects, and anything else related to public safety. The Boston Police Department (@BostonPolice) is a prime example of the effectiveness of Twitter in an emergency situation.

After the tragic Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, the entire surrounding area was put on lockdown while law enforcement searched for the suspects. During their manhunt, officers used Twitter as their primary mode of communication with local residents, and they were constantly tweeting updates, answering questions, and doing their best to keep the public informed during a time of tragedy and chaos.