The city of Seattle is taking its police blotter to Twitter.
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Called "Tweets-by-beat," the Seattle Police Department has started 51 hyper-local Twitter accounts, based on officers' beats, to keep residents up-to-date about the happenings in their neighborhood.
The digital program started the last week of August, and will supplement the department's online blotter. Anyone can read these feeds -- even people who aren't on Twitter, says Sgt. Sean Whitcomb of the department's Public Affairs office.
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"We made it super easy," he tells Mashable. "All you need is an Internet connection."
The idea behind the new Twitter accounts is to raise public awareness of personal safety and to prevent crimes.
"Maybe people will take the time to use some common sense to reduce the likeihood of them being victims of crime," Whitcomb says.
The department has used its main Twitter account @SeattlePD for several years; it tweets about topics ranging from breaking crime news to a lost pet snake in a local park.
Whitcomb says the department debated at length about how soon they should tweet about a potential crime after it was reported. It had to consider police safety and the fact that criminals may follow the Twitter accounts, too. The department decided that once a call is closed, they'll tweet about it (aside from breaking news); the average time for typical police-blotter reports to be tweeted is an hour. For example, if someone calls dispatch and reports a suspicious person who looks like they're breaking into a car, but arrive on scene to discover that the person is actually the car owner who lost his keys, then the call is closed and can be tweeted about.
The Twitter feeds won't detract from small newspapers and other news outlets that publish or broadcast the police blotters, but rather will add to discussion of local crime, Whitcomb says.
This initiative is part of the department's 2020 plan to modernize the police force.
What do you think about the Seattle Police Department's Twitter police blotter? Tell us in the comments below.
[Via: New York Times]
This story originally published on Mashable here.