Across the Charles River, the Cambridge Police Department is stepping up its social media game, introducing real-time Tweets that tell constituents about crimes in neighborhoods as they happen.
On Tuesday, the department announced that it would be sharing more information with the general public, in 140 characters or less, through automated messages that act as a Twitter version of a police scanner.
Using their official social media account, each automated Tweet will be about “high-profile” incidents like assaults, fights, break-ins and other emergency situations, so residents and people in the area know exactly what’s going on when they hear sirens or see blue lights flashing.
In a statement, Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas said the initiative has been in the works for quite some time.
“We believe strongly in the ability of social media to communicate with the public in a timely manner, and tweeting information about serious incidents will better inform our residents about what types of incidents police are responding to in their community,” said Haas.
Cambridge Police are the second department in the nation to embrace this type of technology.
In October of 2012, Seattle Police rolled out a similar “Tweets-by-beat” system to keep people informed, turning the “pen and ink of the old police blotter into the bits and bytes of the digital age.”
Using code, which interfaces with the department’s dispatch system, and a program written with the help of the city’s Emergency Communications Department, the tweets can be sent out instantaneously.
Now, tweets will be sent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as reports are called in, and police respond to the scene of certain crimes.
Each tweet, which will be stamped with the time, date and location of the incident, including the type of crime, will be set on a delay, as to not inundate peoples’ Twitter streams with Cambridge Police logs, according to Haas.
Although the technology allows for immediate, real-time updates, the department reminded residents and followers on Tuesday that when reporting crimes, don’t do it through Twitter.
Those interested in receiving real-time tweets with crime and other information from the Cambridge Police Department should follow @CambridgePolice.
Other departments in Boston, and surrounding cities, have also adapted to the digital age.
Below is a list of emergency responders and police departments that constantly use Twitter to get information out to followers.
Boston Police: Not only does the Hub’s department have a Twitter account, so does their boss, Police Commissioner Ed Davis. While Davis is slightly less active than the constant updates BPD spews out about arrests and local events, he still responds to followers here and there. The department also has an active blog where they post the more entertaining arrests for media-types to pluck information from. You can find them on Flickr, as well, but it is mostly pictures of motorcycles and cop cars.
MBTA Transit Police: The T, while behind on their infrastructure upgrades and timely trains, is on the forefront of technology for its riders. This includes the police being active online. MBTA PD can be seen tweeting away regularly, answering questions from those taking public transportation, and showing up when something suspicious is reported. Besides the “See, Say App,” they also have a new blog where they post alerts and arrests.
Boston Fire Department: Spokesman Steve MacDonald holds it down while out on the job, updating pictures and sending out tweets of activity on the scene from @BostonFire. They are also very popular on Facebook, with more than 30,000 likes.
Boston Emergency Medical Services: Follow along with the official Twitter handle for the city’s Boston Emergency Medical Services as they update you on local accidents they respond to, and supply emergency preparedness information. The conversations aren’t as fast-paced as their tweets, but you can follow the ambulance services on Facebook, too.
Somerville Police: For all the latest information about what’s happening on the other side of the Charles River, the police send out information and look for tips from locals from their Twitter handle, @SomervillePD. Much like Cambridge, they, too, have a Facebook page where they make frequent posts.
Local Colleges Police Departments: Cities and towns aren’t the only ones turning to social media to get the message out to people. Schools utilize the services as well, often re-tweeting each others’ notices and alerts. You can find the Boston University Police Department on Twitter, as well as on their blog. And, of course, Harvard University Police, however, Harvard needs to get more active and tweet more than once every few months. We couldn’t find accounts or blogs for Northeastern University or Boston College.