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Tweet3PO's creators say the future of crime fighting isn't neighborhood watch - it's social media

Photo: Christopher Balogh, License: N/A

Christopher Balogh

The service has had modest success – it has 577 followers on Twitter and reports crime from all corners of the city – but the two say they aren't trying to monetize the project. They do, however, hope to promote it as a civic initiative.

“We are looking to expand on the philosophies of open-government data,” Grobleski says. “We don't want to expand it as a product, but as a concept to spread to other communities.”

Grobleski says he realized after attending neighborhood meetings that the traditional neighborhood-watch system seemed particularly low-tech and inefficient. He figured Tweet3PO could do a better job reaching more people. “Traditional neighborhood watch consists of pamphlets, signs and phone trees, which seems a bit outdated,” he says. “Getting people in communities to meet each other and communicate on neighborhood-awareness topics has always been a challenge. New social media technologies like Facebook and Twitter bridge those gaps.”

Diggz says moving to social media is “the natural evolution of the neighborhood newsletters.”

“It's a simple, free way to connect with your neighbors and your government officials,” he says. “I think of Tweet3PO as handing a virtual walkie-talkie to all my neighbors.”

That virtual walkie-talkie helped police arrest an attacker in Grobleski's own neighborhood of Lake Eola Heights in 2011. A neighbor had been stabbed after confronting a strange man who had entered another neighbor's yard. The suspect got away, but Grobleski and other neighbors turned to Tweet3PO's Twitter feed and Facebook page to post descriptions of him.

“One of our neighbors went driving around looking for the suspect by using the description that was put out through Twitter,” Grobleski says. “He found a match to the description at Festival Way Park and took a picture of him from afar. He then called the cops.”

Police then arrested Colin Mann for attempted second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The duo say they're now trying to rally local government and law-enforcement agencies to get on board with their strategy, but Diggz says some are “slower to react.”

“Some understand the power of social media in community outreach, and the power of transparency in open government,” Grobleski says. “Others do not.”

One of the people he says who took a while to warm up to Tweet3PO was Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan.

“She also was probably hesitant on our project, since it would show crimes in her district,” Diggz says, and it took about two years of “in-depth talks and helping her campaign” before she was willing to get behind it. Grobleski says the commissioner even approached him about becoming her social-media consultant, but he declined the position.

Sheehan's aide, Bill Stevens, told Orlando Weekly that the commissioner would be willing to discuss the Tweet3PO project, but she was unavailable until after this story went to press.

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