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Salisbury Police Department broadens social media presence

SALISBURY — If you’ve seen the Salisbury Police Department on your favorite social media platform, you aren’t imagining it. The police agency has had a presence on Facebook and Twitter for a while, and it recently added a Youtube channel.

In 2017, when the department partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center, the department determined it was missing out on an audience that could be reached on new platforms to exchange information, said police Lt. Greg Beam.

Beam said the Department of Justice representatives placed a big emphasis on social media and how the department could use it to “get our message out.” The department started with Facebook and mainly sought the public’s help finding crime suspects and alerting the community to serious crimes in particular areas.

City Communications Director Linda McElroy said the Police Department joining various social media platforms was something that Chief Jerry Stokes had advocated.

Beam said the department had to figure out what platforms worked and what it would post. Beam said at first, minor and major crimes were listed on social media pages, and the consensus was that it was too much. Now the department has found success mixing lighthearted public service announcements, “feel-good” stories and crime-related news.

The department also partners with the city communications team to broadcast news conferences and major announcements. Those videos are usually aired on a live broadcast.

When the department opened its Facebook page, the response was overwhelming. Beam said department leaders never imagined the public would be so willing to share tips about crime and help in identifying suspects. He said what propelled the Facebook page was when the department began began posting regularly about criminal activity and asked residents to participate.

Police officials learned that people like knowing the information they provided helped capture a suspect.

Beam said each platform has a target audience. He said eventually, the department wants to segue into Instagram becauseof the potential to reach a younger audience, who are its primary users. Currently, the city communications staff shares Instagram posts about the Police Department on the city’s page, citysalisburync.

The Police Department’s Youtube channel, Salisbury Police Department Crime Watch, is used only to show videos of crimes in hopes that someone will be able to help solve them.

Each police unit now has a social media representative who gathers pictures and videos that officers came across during a shift. The officer forwards any news or information to a page administrator, who approves the content and gets it posted.

Beam said he’s attended a number of public information training conferences and listened to representatives of other agencies around the country share success stories about making social media a department priority.

“It’s fun hearing all of those agencies talk about what they do at these conferences and how it reaches people,” he said.

Some of the department’s most shared videos and images are a recruitment video it created a year ago and some more lighthearted posts.

A recent video of an officer taking a tumble on a Segway garnered more than 8,000 views. The video was brought to light by the officer himself, who thought it was funny. Another video that went viral was of officers playing basketball with a group of young men, who neighbors said were “making too much noise.” The video received thousands of shares and likes and hundreds of positive comments.

A photo of officers sporting their tattoos also received a lot of praise. “It just shows we are human,” Beam said.

Beam said there always will be detractors who say police officers should be making better use of their time or “fighting crime.”

McElroy said people should know that officers can “fight crime and have a sense of humor.”

Beam said the ultimate goal is for the community to hear the message police are sending.

“It’s a great way to reach people,” Beam said.

The Salisbury Police Department’s social media platforms include:

• Twitter: https://twitter.com/SalisburyNCPD

• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalisburyPoliceDepartment/

• Youtube: http://ow.ly/BAWu30oVoEY

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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