Social Media Helps Police Connect With Community

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- From smart phones to social media. Local police departments and neighborhood watch groups are using Facebook to help fight crime.

The Rockford Police Department has a new tool in fighting crime and it's something you're probably familiar with -- Facebook. It's only been up and running for a few weeks, but it's already making a difference.

"We'll use the two bank robberies. We received so many tips. Not only did we but the news agencies received tips, Crime Stoppers received tips, and because of that information we were able to solve both those, or make an arrest in both those cases," Rockford Police Lt. Pat Hoey, said.

While Facebook is helping solve crime, the department's main goal with the page is to keep us better informed.

"It really reaches the demographics of people who don't tend to be engaged with the police department. It’s the 18-32 year old group that particularly wants information right away," Lt. Hoey said.

It's that immediacy that prompted Terri Melendrez to start the Loves Park Neighborhood Watch Facebook page.

"I have a lot of people that will private message me and say hey, this is going on right now, can you post it," she explained.

But while the page has more than 1,700 likes, attendance at the actual neighborhood watch meeting is much lower.

"Personally, I feel is maybe a fear of retribution. So we try to make it, the ability to be as anonymous in placing your information," Community Services Coordinator for the Loves Park Police Department, said.

The West Gateway Coalition on Rockford's west side is one group that has been successful in keeping attendance high. Secretary Dyanna Chandler says their members understand stopping crime starts with them.

"We have a responsibility as citizens to work with the police to root out criminals in our community and restore them to healthy neighborhoods," Chandler said.

But whether it’s through Facebook or face-to-face meetings, keeping the lines of communication open between officers and residents is key.

"Whether we're knocking on someone's door asking for information, we're putting out a message through Facebook asking for information, crimes get solved," Lt. Hoey said.

There are more than 100 neighborhood watch groups in Rockford. Some of those have done away with meetings and only use social media.

ROCKFORD (WIFR) – With just a click of the mouse, local police departments are bridging the communication gap with the community.
There’s no question about it, we’re in the age of social media. It seems just about everyone has Facebook, so now police departments, including Rockford and Loves Park are jumping on the bandwagon.

The Rockford Police Department launched its Facebook page a few weeks ago and is already up to nearly 2,200 likes. The Loves Park Police Department is in the process of building its Facebook page.

Terri Melendrez started her own Loves Park Neighborhood Watch page a few years ago. She wishes more people would come to neighborhood meetings, but says Facebook is a good option for those who can’t make it to the meetings to stay informed.

"It’s something they can sit at home on, they can sit on their phones, they don't have to go out to the meetings, which is, you know, we'd like to have them here because the police need our help in telling them what is going on in their area,” said Melendez, Facebook Page Administrator for Loves Park Neighborhood Watch Group.

Terri’s neighborhood watch page isn’t affiliated with the city, it’s just her way of helping her neighbors.

Officers are using the page as both a way to keep the community informed and as a crime fighting tool.
Officers post a couple times a day with information we need to know. It also helps with fighting crime as users can send a private message with tips to the police department and they can follow up on all of those.

You can find the Rockford Police Department on Facebook here and the Loves Park Neighborhood Watch Group page here.

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