Note: I’ve been writing a lot about the Toronto Police Service lately and thought I should diversify a bit. But, I’ve decided I’m going to go ahead and write more about TPS for several reasons: 1) TPS has many great success stories about their use of social media 2) they don’t seem to mind telling me about them, and 3) because THIS story absolutely astounds me…
Police in Toronto, Ontario (TPS) are looking for a murderer and are currently waging an all-out online effort in social media to find him. When Zabiullah Mojaddedi intervened in a street robbery last month, two men opened fire on him. One arrest has been made. Tristan Lall, 25, was on a lifetime court-ordered ban from firearms. He has been charged with first-degree murder. TPS CrimeStoppers Unit, lead by Constable Scott Mills, is spreading the word with Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
The murder took place in a heavily populated city park, right next to a basketball court. The video above has been posted on YouTube by TPS. In it, Detective Peter Code says, “there’s no doubt in my mind that there’s somebody out there that knows who was with Tristan Lall that evening.”
Anyone with any information is asked to call 416-808-7393 or can leave information anonymously at 416-222-TIPS or 800-222-TIPS or go to www.222tips.com, or by texting TOR and your message to 274637. Twitter is @1800222TIPS, Facebook is www.facebook.com/800222tips
When Sergeant Tim Burrows, of the Toronto Police Services (TPS), started using Twitter in April, he thought he would be talking solely to the Toronto media. To his pleasant surprise, his twitter efforts caught on with the public. Burrows is in charge of strategic communications and media relations for traffic services unit for the entire city. He now has over 2,300 followers from every continent. Burrows says “I saw the value in Twitter, but I truly didn’t see the value that other people saw in me and what I had to say. At first I guess I was kind of narrow-minded as to what I could do with Twitter.”
Burrows’ early tweeting activity was to conduct scene management. He would tweet so that the media knew he was aware of a traffic accident, was on his way and would be providing updates. In fact, he credits a local television assignment desk editor with first suggesting he use Twitter to communicate with reporters. He still does scene management for the media, but he also tweets safety messages, tips of the day, and advises the motoring public where traffic enforcement officers will be conducting dedicated enforcement on any given day.
Among the benefits he has experienced are improved community relations, faster notification of traffic accidents and a better educated motoring public.
Interaction between Burrows and citizens over social media is increasing too and that bodes well for community relations. He has a stable of people who retweet his messages so his reach is expanded even further. Additionally, sometimes people ask for advice, send in photos with questions, or they’re angry about something. Burrows finds that getting back to an angry citizen with Twitter works wonders to build a bridge because the person is often happy just to have been heard and receive a response. “People are learning that police are not your enemy, we’re actually here to help keep you alive”.
Burrows’ tweets automatically post to his Facebook page, where he also provides traffic safety advice and posts videos. He also has a traffic services blog to provide expanded observations, “When I say slow down on Twitter, on the blog I can actually tell people why they should slow down”. And of course, he uses Twitter to drive traffic to his blog.
What lies ahead for Burrows and social media? He says the TPS is investigating setting up a Traffic Services TV podcasting channel possibly on Blip.tv or Vimeo or a similar service. He explains, “we will recap major incidents and dissect why an accident happened. If we can explain why, that’ll help people avoid the circumstances so that maybe it won’t happen to them”. Burrows plans to have experts in forensics investigation and reconstruction provide expanded observations.
His mandate was to find every way conceivable to spread the message of traffic safety and to communicate to citizens that it’s a quality of life issue. It’s a mandate he seems to be achieving. While he started with Twitter to talk to the media to help get info to the public, he’s learned very quickly that with much of his information, he can bypass the media and with Twitter actually talk directly to people.
It’s been just a month and a half since the City of Boston, teamed up with the Boston PD and Stolen Bikes Boston to launch a social media strategy to recover stolen bikes. Just last week, the first bike was recovered through the plan. Postings on Facebook lead to the recovery of the bike in Arlington. Another bike that was stolen from South Station has been reported as being sighted in Roxbury.
The director of this innovative program, Nicole Freedman, says the key is to alert as many people as feasible as soon after the bike is reported stolen as possible. People can choose from three ways to hear about a stolen bike, through Facebook, Twitter or an email list. The notices go out after someone reports their bike as stolen at the website which is stolenbikesboston.com.
Down the road, Freedman hopes to be able to hook up with police authorities, such as those at universities and hospitals to recover bikes that are stolen and subsequently dumped and hopefully match them up with their owners. “Believe it or not” says Freedman, “there’s a significant secondary market for higher end bikes that quickly get shipped out of the area for resale elsewhere, often out of the country”. Tracking down those bikes will be challenging.
Additional social media efforts could include a proprietary iPhone application, “It’s something we’re looking at to see if it will help increase amount of bikes that can be returned. That’s our priority. It’s something we may do if we decide it’ll help in that effort.”
Social media is about creating conversations. The Boston Bike program is doing just that. But for the program to achieve real success will require an engaged public to participate by reading at least one of the three informational feeds and then being on the lookout. The alerts go to any citizen who signs up as well as police, bicycle repair shops and others in the cycling community.
So far, the Boston Bikes program has 173 registered users and 66 stolen bikes. To date, 380 people are Facebook fans, there are about 250 followers on Twitter and 50 who have asked for alerts through email. Freedman acknowledges that they’re still pedaling uphill and will continue to until they reach a critical mass of followers. She says, “one thing I know is that there are a lot of people that are coming very regularly to follow the stolen bikes program. It seems to be becoming viral.” Followings are built slowly, once they pass the crest of the hill, it’s certain to pick up steam.