Last week, the Naugatuck Police Department had a situation where a local senior citizen who has Alzheimer’s went missing from her home.
Immediately, officers took to a tool that is helping police departments around the country solve crimes, locate people and interact with the public: Facebook.
“We figure that even if we can get a dozen people or so to respond to that kind of message, then that is 12 people out there who may be able to help,” said Lt. Bryan Cammarata, Naugatuck police spokesman.
As it turns out, the woman was located, safely, a few hours later in Plainville. But in the time she was missing, police received several Facebook messages from people who knew the woman and said they would keep their eyes peeled. That, Cammarata says, illustrates the point as to why local officers are utilizing social media and other forms of technology to help keep the community safe.
The department, which just eight years ago wouldn’t email the press and instead faxed occasional news releases, is now emailing the press nearly every day with a log of every call it went on the night before and a separate list of arrests. It also recently implemented a program called iWatch Naugatuck, which is an application for Smart Phones that allows people to give tips to police officers. The department has its own webpage, naugatuckpd.org, which is emblazoned on the back of police cruisers (the site is being updated, currently). And, finally, officers recently started delving into the social media world (visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/naugatuckpolice).
Though social media has been popular for several years and police across the country have utilized it since its inception, Naugatuck police were not sure it would be a worthwhile venture. But, Cammarata says, it was worth trying and has since paid off.
In a few weeks, the department garnered about 500 Facebook followers, or people who “like” the page. And, the followers appear to be engaged.
Cammarata said that during a recent snowstorm, he put out information on the parking ban in Naugatuck and several people responded within minutes.
“This is how people are getting their news these days,” he said.
So, what’s next for the department, maybe Twitter?
Cammarata said he’s not yet too familiar with Twitter, but heard other departments utilize it. He plans on discussing it with those departments to see how valuable it has been.
So don’t be surprised if you see an officer on the beat stopping to send a “tweet.” It’s just the Naugatuck Police Department trying to utilize another form of social media to reach out to residents.