You can now ‘friend’ the police
GREENFIELD — While spending company time on Facebook is discouraged in many workplaces, it’s part of the job at the Greenfield Police Department.
“It’s a different day and age; people want to be informed,” said Chief Robert Haigh Jr. “This is a way to increase communications without a lot of ‘heavy lifting.’”
The department joined the popular social media sites Facebook and Twitter in mid-December, and has since been using these as well as YouTube and Pinterest pages to keep the community informed. Haigh said Lt. William Gordon has taken charge of the department’s online presence.
“I’m extremely pleased with the feedback, both positive and critical, that we’ve received,” said Gordon. “It makes it fun.”
Since it was started, the Facebook page has accumulated 928 followers, or “likes.” An arrest log, complete with mug shots, is a popular feature of the department’s Facebook feed.
The department has also begun to post its call log.
“People take an interest in the police logs,” the chief said. “Not every call can make it into the paper, and this gives us another avenue to get things out there.”
Gordon said that the logs are a work in progress, and he hopes to begin posting them weekly in the future. They take time, though, and he must read through each item, redacting sensitive information before posting them online.
The page can also serve as a way to link social problems to possible solutions.
One long thread on the page provides a cross-section of the area’s ongoing heroin problem.
Links to news articles detailing recent heroin arrests and overdoses are joined by links to addiction treatment resources from inpatient detox facilities to groups like the RECOVER Project, a local community of recovering drug and alcohol addicts focused on helping each other stay clean and sober.
“We have been getting a lot of tips related to the heroin crises,” Gordon said. “It is obvious that the whole community is concerned, and is willing to help.”
The page also provides information from road closures and public safety updates to community events and a January post letting people know the Aurora Borealis might be visible.
It’s also a way to introduce new hires and show historic pictures of former officers. Gordon said people seem to like the old photos, and a few visitors have shared memories of past officers.
The department also posts links to law enforcement, fire and emergency-related news stories from several area news sources.
While the page’s main purpose is to keep residents informed, it’s also a way for residents to inform the police, said Haigh.
“For example, we’ve gotten some tips on an individual who was stealing copper pipe” from buildings, said Haigh. “As soon as we put (the thefts) online, we started getting calls. We’ve also had some narcotics information and other tips come in online.”
The department posts pictures of those for whom felony warrants have been issued. The 21st-century “wanted” posters both advise the public of the crimes suspects stand accused of and ask for help locating them.
The department also reaches wanted people by direct Facebook message, to let them know of their warrants and give them a chance to turn themselves in.
“(The wanted posts) have been extremely successful,” said Gordon. “Within 24 hours, they get about 5,000 views.”
Gordon said they’ve resulted in a few tips, and one wanted man currently out of state heard about the posting and has arranged to surrender himself when he returns to Massachusetts.
The practice has resulted in some unexpected feedback.
“Interestingly enough, we get calls from family members thanking us for trying to find their loved ones,” Gordon said.
Leads and kind words aren’t the only things the page has brought to the department.
The police station found itself host to several families and children during two recent same-day incidents. Several people displaced by a small fire at the Quality Inn, as well as four children removed from their house during a domestic disturbance, found themselves spending hours in the station with nothing to do.
So, police asked the community for help. A Facebook post asked readers for donations of kids’ books, toys and other essentials.
Within hours of the posting, donations came pouring in, and Haigh said the station is now a much friendlier place for children.
The department is focusing its online efforts on Facebook for now, but will continue to expand its presence on other websites.
“The chief and I have talked about doing a ‘tweet-a-long’ on Twitter,” said Gordon. “Followers would go to a virtual roll-call and tour the station as well as go on calls right from the comfort of home.”
Gordon also hopes to add more to the department’s YouTube page, including videos of officer training sessions, safety tips and more.
You can get the latest from the Greenfield Police Department by checking its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/greenfieldmapolice, its Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/greenfieldpd, its YouTube channel at goo.gl/AuVQuV, and its Pinterest page, www.pinterest.com/greenfieldmapolice.
Updates from Greenfield Police and other area organizations are also included in the “This Just In” section of The Recorder’s home page at www.recorder.com.
You can reach David Rainville at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 279