I’m the programming guy for the Sacramento chapter of the Social Media Club which means I help identify topics for the meetings and line up speakers. It’s always fascinating the people that I meet when putting together the topics, and speakers for each meeting, but even more fascinating is what I learn from the speakers.
Tonight’s topic was Social Media & Crime, how law enforcement agencies are using social media to fight crime.
The first speaker was Detective James Carden of Fairfield, California PD and 1036Forensics. Detective Carden talked quite a bit about how they started their social media program within the department after an unwanted predatory approach on a child via MySpace. The department set up a MySpace page and started using it as a way to interact with the community. It has now become a news source about crime in the community as many in the area do not read newspapers. Additionally, it has become a source of leads as many people feel more comfortable approaching the police department in a medium they are comfortable with. As Det. Carden said, “There are lots of people that would never flag me down in a police cruiser to talk with me but they have no problem sending me a message on MySpace to tell me something.”
To me the most important part of his talk was the discussion of the “#1 Friend Program.” He encourages parents to have teens and tweens on MySpace list the Fairfield PD or other local law enforcement agency as their first friend. He likens this to a police car being parked on a block. It may provide just enough incentive for someone who was looking to cause trouble to move on. This is an outstanding idea. It’s cheap. It’s easy to do and it can have a huge impact. I recommend all my friends in law enforcement check it out.
The second speaker was Director Mike Belcher of the University of the Pacific Department of Public Safety. This is a sworn police department that serves the University in an urban setting. One of the key takeaways from Director Belcher was that the University uses information published on student and organization event pages on social networks such as Facebook to plan and communicate with student groups who are planning parties. The other point brought up was that social media enables Public Safety to be able cut off inaccurate information about crimes or events that may be circulating around campus. Through the use of Twitter and Facebook they can nip rumors in the bud.
Thank you to both of these officers for sharing their time with our group.