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PGPD Game Time

It had the ingredients for a traffic disaster: a Monday evening rush hour on the notoriously clogged Capital Beltway combined with a 7:05 pm kick-off for the Washington Redskins’ 2013 season home opener in Landover, Maryland.

But the Prince George’s County Police Department, whose headquarters borders FedEx Field, home of the Redskins’ stadium, decided to tackle the traffic challenge head-on. The department’s Media Relations Division developed a plan to inform the community about one of the most talked about topics in the Washington, DC area on any day of the year: traffic. The PGPD created “Game Time,” an information-sharing social media event. The department began tweeting on the Friday before the Monday Night Football game against the Redskins’ nearby NFC East rival the Philadelphia Eagles. Using the hashtag #GameTime, one member of the Media Relations Division coordinated with the police department’s Special Operations Division, which oversees all events at FedEx Field, to determine which information and images to tweet and when.

NFL games are major events for the PGPD with some 200 officers handling security and traffic. There is a large control room within FedEx Field where the Special Ops commanders keep a watchful eye on activities both in and around the stadium. Relying on a large bank of traffic cameras surveying the major arteries near the 90,000-person stadium, the Media Relations Division was able to see and then share traffic news in real time as the 7:05pm kickoff approached.

Various local media outlets gave advance coverage to “Game Time”, advising viewers, listeners and reader that the police department’s Twitter handle, @PGPDNews, would be tweeting traffic news during the potentially disastrous evening commute. This included the widely-followed The Washington Post’s traffic Twitter handle, @DrGridlock.

To maintain the momentum of the media coverage and to help game-goers plan, Media Relations began tweeting #GameTime news at about 3:30pm, 3 1/2 hours before the game began. In an attempt to crowd source traffic information, the PGPD solicited commuter input & specifically tried to discourage the notion of having drivers tweeting while behind the wheel:


At about 5 pm, this basic tweet prompted 12 retweets, or sharing of the police department’s message:

The Department’s message was spreading:

A parking logistics coordinator working for the Washington Redskins noted during the event it seemed to him the advance media coverage and the possibility of gridlock might be having an effect – not just on game attendees but on rush hour commuters as well. The parking lots, both he and police commanders noted, were filling up much earlier than expected.

The major roadways were far less congested than expected as kick-off neared. Drivers had planned ahead and arrived at the stadium well in advance.

A PGPD Special Operations Division helicopter flying above the stadium offered aerial images of traffic and the parking lots. Those tweets generated a lot of retweets, indicating the appetite for information included an appreciation for social media aesthetics.

In addition to the media coverage generated by the event, the PGPD advertised for “Game Time” in the days leading up to the game on Twitter, since that’s where the event would take place. However, to encourage crossover followers, the event was also advertised on the department’s Facebook page.

What ticket holders and commuters alike took away from the “Game Time” experience isn’t easily measured. Based on media coverage, the 38 new @PGPDNews followers gained that day and positive response from existing @PGPDNews followers, the department deemed the event a success.

The next similar event is planned for the week before Thanksgiving. Look for @PGPDNews to host #OperationOutlets on November 22, 2013. The grand opening for a new outlets mall in Prince George’s County is expected to draw more than 20,000 visitors and could lead to traffic tie-ups. To try and prevent that, the PGPD’s Special Operations Division’s Traffic Enforcement Unit and the Media Relations Division will again team up, returning to Twitter to once again keep citizens informed.

Julie Parker serves as the Director of the Media Relations Division for the Prince George’s County (MD) Police Department, the nation’s 28th largest law enforcement agency. The PGPD straddles Washington, D.C. and spans 500 square miles of urban, suburban, and rural populations. Prince George’s County is home to the University of Maryland at College Park, the Washington Redskins, and NASA headquarters with an approximate population of 900,000. Parker serves as principal communications advisor to the Chief of Police & other executive command staff and is responsible for key messages and media strategy, to include during crisis situations. She promotes and achieves positive news stories at an unprecedented level for this police department. Parker manages a 13-person division comprised of sworn and civilian public information officers, video production specialists, graphic designer, Crime Solvers coordinator and special projects professional. Parker is also a frequent guest lecturer at the FBI National Academy on law enforcement media relations and crisis communications. She’s a recognized leader in using social media for innovative community outreach, media relations, crisis communications, targeted branding and messaging. Parker spent 13 years reporting and anchoring in Washington, DC, most recently for ABC7 News where she won both an Emmy Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award.

Nextdoor Rollout, Two Months In

This post is a follow up to my original story, Nextdoor: Social Media For The Neighborhood.  If you’re not up to speed on Nextdoor go ahead and read that original post first.

It’s been about two months (as I write this) since my department launched Nextdoor and there’s been some progress in a number of areas to report back on.

Adoption and membership

Back at the end of August 2013 we had been recruiting founding members and putting the word out via our traditional forms of social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook.  I emphasize this because I do think we would have had a much slower adoption rate without the significant audience we already had in place on those platforms. On launch day we were approaching 600 Nextdoor members.  Today is November 3, 2013 and we now have just over 2400 members representing 37 neighborhoods for a total of 12% of households.  When looking at individual neighborhoods the numbers range from a low of 4% of households up to 43% on the high end.  The largest membership in one of our biggest neighborhoods is 210.  Every area of town is represented and every neighborhood has launched permanently.  Here’s how our map looks.

Nextdoor Neighborhoods

Nextdoor Neighborhoods

During the last two months we continued to promote Nextdoor via Twitter and Facebook.  Nextdoor also assisted us by sending out “Express emails” through a third party. This effort was good for 200-300 more sign ups.  It also irritated a few residents that didn’t appreciate the unsolicited emails but there was only the initial email and a follow up one about a week later.  The bottom line is that we have exceeded expectations on the adoption side and our efforts have been bolstered by the residents themselves inviting their neighbors and friends to join.

Feedback from residents

Lets look at some actual feedback

“I’ve only been a member a couple of days but I like being connected to the neighborhood and knowing what is going on around the town.”

“We’re really happy with this. It’s a great way to connect with people in your neighborhood.”

“I was hesitant, but actually enjoy it now. It seems to be helpful with crime alerts in certain neighborhoods. Just have to figure out which neighborhoods they are living in when they post the activity. I think long term it is very helpful”

“This is a terrific service! I enjoy the traffic updates because they tell me what part of town to avoid when I’m going out. I like all of the communications with the police dept. I like the communications with my neighborhood and adjacent neighborhoods. I hope we can avoid political bickering although opinions are important and good to see as long as it doesn’t become obsessive. Otherwise what can possible be wrong with communication?  I wish we had this system years ago. Great job! Thanks”

“I think this is an excellent tool for our community. It has been very effective in getting information out to spefic areas as well as the whole town. It brings back the feeling of neighborhoods as they used to be. Keep up the good work I really appreciate your efforts.”

There’s a lot more positive comments but for the sake of space we can end it there.  Any negative comments have been very minor and usually involve some elements of the software.

Functionality and Support for the Municipality

I’m not going to rehash too many items that were already discussed in my August 26th post regarding how the platform works but I will share some thoughts since we launched.  One particular shortcoming that is hopefully being addressed soon is the complete lack of city functions from their mobile apps.  While residents have mobile apps for iOS and Android, they don’t yet support city functions.  This means that you won’t be using an app to update your residents on the go.  Its not all lost as you can update from the browser, which is slow and clunky, but works OK.  The biggest issue with using the browser I’ve found is the tendency for the browsers to refresh if you leave it to reference another app. On more than one occasion I’ve had to go to an email to reference some information for my Nextdoor post only to find that any work I already did was gone and I had to start over.  This is incredibly frustrating when you’re out in the field.  Law Enforcement technology is increasingly mobile and the need for the mobile app to support city functionality will be important if Nextdoor wants Police Departments to consistently use its platform.  You can reply to an email notification and the reply will post to the originating thread.  This is convenient and posts fairly quickly most of the time. While using a mobile data terminal eliminates some of these limitations, there are still many agencies that don’t provide internet access on their mobile data terminals (why?).

We’ve also had residents reply to some of our posts asking what time the post was created.  Many incidents are time sensitive and Nextdoor doesn’t stamp the time on posts accurately.  Instead, its more of a general “2 hours ago” or just a date.  This is not helpful in many cases.  Its something we gave feedback on and I am told that the time stamps will be reworked in the future.

To this day I still have trouble understanding how Nextdoor orders posts.  There is no option to sort by “date created” or “last updated”.  And, if you use the mobile apps as a resident you’ll be even more confused about what determines the order of the content.

There’s also no way to edit a post once its created.  If you’ve made some typos or spelling errors you’ll need to delete and recreate the post.  I’ve also been informed that this will be enhanced soon.

Recently, Nextdoor added the ability to disable replies.  This prevents a stale topic from being commented on once it loses relevance.  They’ve also added the ability to delete an urgent alert and enhanced private messages to indicate new messages better on the website.

But, overall, Nextdoor software is easy to use, functional and is constantly improving and it seems to be doing things better than many other platforms.  I’ve had many older folks, that aren’t tech savvy, take to Nextdoor and use it.  That’s encouraging.

In the area of support, there’s nothing negative to report. Nextdoor staff is always responsive and proud of their product, and it shows.

Moving Ahead

I believe the future looks bright for Nextdoor but time will tell.  There’s certainly a lot of encouraging investment in their product.  Just recently they raised another $60 million in investment.  That’s $100 million in the last 18 months.  I have no doubt that municipal partnerships will expand and the functionality will increase as well.

We continue to see steady growth but it has slowed a bit so we are already considering a new round of publicity, though we have not settled on the strategy just yet.  Nextdoor continues to set itself apart from traditional social media by verifying the address of residents during registration, not allowing anonymity and providing a private online environment.  This provides a great audience for the police to share information.

Greg is a Police Lieutenant with the Billerica MA Police Department. An 18 year veteran, Greg manages Communications and Technology which includes social media initiatives.

 

 

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Highlights of #Poltwt – half way through

The second #poltwt is well underway with over 250 agency accounts and over 75 officers accounts as registered participants. We have representatives from South Africa, Kenya, Estonia, Belgium, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, Canada and United States. As I write this, registrations continue to come in. All will be noted on the #poltwt Google map as well as the official Twitter list.

#Poltwt Hang Outs to Watch
A Google Hangout hosted by Chief Inspector Kerry Blakeman of the West Midlands Police featuring Amanda Coleman of Greater Manchester Police and me was held earlier today. See it here:

At 3 p.m. Eastern, Constable Scott Mills and I will host a another with international guests to discuss the tweet-a-thon and social media in general.

Our #Poltwt Supporters
Our friends at BrightPlanet will be harvesting all the tweets and giving us the numerical details during #poltwt as well as a summary when its done. We would also like to welcome PublicEye, an iPad and Android based multifunctional law enforcement tool for police officers in the field.

BrightPlanet has the fastest, most powerful tools and services available to help you turn information into intelligence.

Available on all major mobile platforms including iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows 8. Please click the logo to learn more and register for a free webinar.

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I'm sorry Sir, it's against the law

I’m sorry Sir, it’s against the law

There are plenty of arcane, not to say bizarre laws in the UK.

  • MPs aren’t aware of wear armour in parliament.
  • You can’t beat or shake a carpet rug in any street in the Metropolitan Police District.
  • It’s illegal to import Polish potatoes (put on the Statute Book in 2004)

For more examples, see here.

Some of the laws don’t prohibit behaviour but officially sanction it:

Like the right to drive sheep across London Bridge as freemen of the City of London

Or the right for pregnant women to relieve themselves anywhere they see fit.

However, as usual, we must acknowledge the superiority of our US friends when it comes to the wild and wacky category:

See the infographic below to find out:

 

Strangest Laws Still in Effect Today

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

 

Global Police Tweet-a-thon, the sequel

Next Global Police Tweet-a-thon is November 1st!


History in the making
March 22nd of this year was an epic day for law enforcement. It was the day over 200 law enforcement agencies all across the western hemisphere took to Twitter for 24 hours or a portion thereof to tweet about their work. With the hashtag #poltwt, we trended from New Zealand west to Australia, across Europe and then from the east coast of North America  in a wave across to the west coast.

On November 1st, will make history one again. In March, we reached over 11M people with 48,842 tweets in 23 different languages. We hope to make the next #poltwt ever bigger.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, Nov 1st until 8 a.m. on Saturday, Nov 2nd, in your local timezone, tweet any or all of the 24 hours.

The Objective
The overall purpose of the tweet-a-thon is to call attention to policing as well as to police use of social media. Each agency sets its own goals beyond that and tweets whatever portion of the 24 hours that works for you.

The only “rule” is that ever tweet contains the hashtag #poltwt

To sign up:

Email Lauri Stevens at lauri@lawscomm.net

Use subject line: #poltwt

In the message, indicate your Twitter name, your agency name, your physical address (so we can accurately place you on the Google map). If you plan to tweet as an individual officer, give us all of the above and also let us know you’re tweeting as yourself. All emails should come from your government/police address.

 

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