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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

Tweet3PO is not the first of its kind. In Orlando, there's even another series of Twitter feeds, @orlpol, that users can sign up for tailored to their zip codes (its operator, Chad Miller, who also operates a site that maps the last 1,000 calls to the Orlando Police Department, says that in the past, people have actually mistaken his feeds for official police-sanctioned Twitter accounts). Many large cities, including San Francisco, Baltimore, Chicago and Seattle, use Twitter accounts to feed police-dispatch calls, emergency calls and other government data directly to the public.

San Francisco, for instance, uses the DataSF App Showcase, which is a collection of applications developed and built by individuals and organizations that use datasets published by the city and county of San Francisco to send information directly to subscribers' smartphones.

Seattle's government has a dedicated website, data.seattle.gov, which pushes out datasets generated by various departments of Seattle City Government. The site encourages developers to create apps that disseminate the information – from the locations of bike racks to 911 dispatches from fire and police departments.

The Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Office both use social media to share information with citizens, and the city and county both have Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts for emergency management and to help elected representatives stay in touch with constituents. But neither Orange County nor the city have been as forward-thinking or aggressive in their use of new technologies as Grobleski and Diggz think they could be.

Grobleski believes that the future of local government communications will be based on using open-data technologies to interact with citizens. If the data is made easily available, he says, people will create all sorts of apps to share it – such as Tweet3PO.

Sgt. Vince Ogburn, a public information officer for the Orlando Police Department, says his department uses its own social media accounts to interact with the public.

“The Orlando Police Department has a Facebook page, YouTube page and a Twitter account that we post to,” Ogburn says. “The type of information that is put out on those pages are things such as community stories, missing persons, missing juveniles, crimes in which we are looking for the public's assistance in locating and identifying.”

Ogburn says he sees Tweet3PO as a community initiative, but not something that the police department is particularly involved in.

“We do not utilize Tweet3PO,” he says. “If anyone wants to use that service to communicate, that is perfectly fine and legal.”

Ogburn says Tweet3PO represents the natural evolution of information and technology. “We are in the era where technology is constantly changing and being upgraded,” Ogburn says. “We cannot stop anyone from recording, tweeting or posting something on their Facebook page.”

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