Tweet overload as Seattle police step up Twitter use
When the Seattle Police Department promoted the Aug. 2 National Night Out Against Crime, it put a notice on its website. It also tweeted, and tweeted, for 12 hours, with virtually every incident report — so much that many of the Twitter followers dropped out.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A parking violation on Boylston Avenue East. An aggressive panhandler on 15th Avenue Northeast. Shoplifting on Broadway. Mischief on Pine Street.
When the Seattle Police Department (SPD) wanted to promote next Tuesday's annual National Night Out Against Crime, it did more than post a message on its website.
It tweeted. And tweeted. And tweeted.
For 12 hours Tuesday, police bombarded their Twitter followers with nearly every incident reported to officers.
Beginning at 6 a.m., incidents were tweeted except for domestic violence, bomb threats, child abuse or sexual assault.
Seattle police have about 10,000 Twitter followers, although hundreds dropped off during the tweetathon.
"I had to unfollow when SPD blew up my phone," one user said in a comment.
"I think the @SeattlePD is abusing its Twitter followers," said another.
Police spokesman Sean Whitcomb said the department started posting a blog in 2008 and moved to Twitter in 2009.
"This is another way we can communicate," Whitcomb said. "We want to engage the public.
"If we are going out to a scene we will tweet that," he said. "If someone is an SPD Twitter follower, he's welcome to get out of his house and hear what we're telling the news."
Of the SPD use of Twitter, Hanson Hosein, director of the master of communications in digital media program at the University of Washington, said, "As a public organization it's great it's using social-media tools.
"My concern is the tweetathon might be a great idea, but they might be missing the relationship part with this machine-gun approach," Hosein said. "They're not able to respond and will annoy people with the noise."
When two women were sexually assaulted in Greenwood, police tweeted the suspect's photo. "It was another way for us to communicate and broaden the net with additional eyes and ears," Whitcomb said.
Whitcomb knows critics consider the tweets spam. "I'm sure we'll lose a few frustrated with the tweets," he said, "but they'll probably rejoin."
Hosein, at the UW, agreed. "It's probably true. They will sign up again.
"This might be a really smart move on their part."
Seattle police have more plans for Twitter followers: a tweet-along. It will be a virtual ride-along with an officer who will tweet every call he responds to in a Seattle neighborhood. Whitcomb said he hopes to launch it in August.
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or email@example.com
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