Earlier this summer a bicycle was reported stolen from the train station in Berlin. The police department posted security images on its Facebook page and within an hour received a call, interviewed the suspect and recovered the bike.
“It’s been a great tool for us,” said Berlin Deputy Police Chief Christopher Ciuci. “And not just for criminal matters.”
Police across the state are using social media, mainly Facebook and Twitter, more and more to help solve crimes, inform the public about upcoming events and recognize officers.
According to a 2016 survey by the Urban Institute, the increase in police departments signing up for social media accounts began 2010 and peaked in 2012. The institute conducts research on social and economic policy.
The survey also found the most common reasons police use social media include notifying the public of potential safety concerns, community outreach and engagement and traffic issues.
In Southington, the police department posts the arrest blotter on its Facebook page along with road closings and awards and commendations for officers and citizens. The department has a handful of officers who are authorized to post on the page, Lt. Stephen Elliott said.
“It’s definitely becoming more prevalent despite dinosaurs like me,” said Elliott, who doesn’t have a personal Facebook page. “It’s the thing right now, and its going to be a growing wave in the future.”
Wallingford Police Lt. Cheryl Bradley said her department doesn’t use social media for police business.
Meriden Sgt. Christopher Fry handles the department’s Facebook page as part of his public information officer position. He uses both Facebook and Twitter.
He recounted one incident where two officers filmed a video for a friend in response to the “Momo internet hoax” that was scaring some children. The officers in the video told children they “captured” the fictitious Momo character to make children feel safe. The video was posted on social media.
“The Facebook portal is reserved for interaction with the community,” Fry said. “We want to be able to give you updates in a timely fashion and we want to be able to constantly research ways in how to be able to do that.”
In another incident, Meriden police shared a security video showing an armed robbery on West Main Street to help catch the suspect. When an 11-year-old girl was recognized for her actions during the robbery, police also shared that information through social media.
Ciuci said the Berlin department also uses social media to increase transparency. If residents post complaints or questions about how a particular incident was handled, police try to learn from the feedback and respond.
Plainville Police Lt. Nicholas Mullins said police dispatch supervisor, Al Urso, handles the posts on the department Facebook page.
Mullins said it has become an excellent tool to spread information and to connect with the people they are serving.
“I think you have to nowadays,” Ciuci said about using social media. “If you don’t you’re not communicating as effectively as you could be.”