Seattle police publicize crimes on Twitter with 'Tweets-by-beat'

In a new initiative, city authorities get techie and transform run-of-the-mill police blotters into 140-character crime blasts via the social network.

Seattle residents now have the option of following the local police department on Twitter. In a first-of-a-kind program, the city's authorities are launching a new initiative that involves cops translating the news they get on the streets to tweets.

Dubbed "Tweets-by-beat," this program attempts to replace the police blotter that normally runs in local papers with a tech version of basically the same thing, according to the New York Times. When residents follow the department on the social network, they'll get routine tweets of the up-to-the-moment crime happenings in their neighborhoods.

"Liquor violation -- intoxicated person," read one tweet today. "Accident investigation at 5 Ave/James St," read another.

Fifty-one neighborhoods are involved with Tweets-by-beat and most all crimes and emergencies happening in these areas are broadcast on Twitter. According to the New York Times, the only crimes excluded are those that deal with sexual assault and domestic violence. While the tweets are timely, they are still posted one hour after police learn of the crime to avoid onlookers and gawkers.

"More and more people want to know what's going on on their piece of the rock," Seattle chief of police John Diaz told the New York Times. "They want to specifically know what's going on in the areas around their home, around their work, where their children might be going to school. This is just a different way we could put out as much information as possible as quickly as possible."

This isn't the first time that Seattle police have taken to the microblogging site. In 2010, the department started using the Twitter handle @GetYourCarBack as a way to find stolen vehicles . The way it worked was when a stolen vehicle was reported, the police tweeted the car's year, make, model, and color with instructions to the public to call 911 if they spot the vehicle.

When CNET contacted Twitter, a spokesperson said, "It is always great to see local organizations, governments and departments use Twitter as a resource for community outreach."

Updated on October 2 at 8:15 p.m. PT with comment from Twitter's spokesperson.

About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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