Twitter has been around for approximately 3 years now but it has only hit mainstream in the past year. It use to be a small group of tech savvy users and now has blossomed to millions of new users. Companies have jumped the bandwagon realizing the potential to interact with customers in a more personal and quick responsive way. It was only a matter of time but even the police are now using Twitter. Milwaukee police wanted to get word of a shooting out quickly, they did it in 113 characters on Twitter.
Milwaukee's department is one of a growing number of police agencies using social networks to relay important information the public might want to know. The only problem with this type of engagement is that false information can be mentioned in a tweet.
Anyone can also go on Twitter and claim they are the cops. Credibility can still be an issue with using social media this way. In Toronto, the police department has utilized youtube to post reenactments or descriptions of criminals which can reach a vast audience that goes past border and boundaries. The FBI is also now on Twitter too. They are using it more to dispel the way they are portrayed on television. It is being used more as an educational way to represent the FBI and to report sucessful operations. The FBI twitter handle is @FBIPressOffice.
One way I see Twitter being helpful is in the use of traffic control. Numerous news agencies will now tweet that there is an accident in a particular area which helps drivers manoeuvre their routes. The police have also used this to relay traffic delays especially when there are major events in a city. This replaces or substitutes the regular fax of traffic warnings from police to local business because Twitter is more instant. In a recent local news story, a girl went missing but their was no "Amber Alert" mentioned by police in which timing is in the essence for this type of crime; instead word got out through Twitter quicker than some news desk were able to report to general public.
Overall, Twitter can be used as an additional tool for the Police and other public agencies to engage with there constituents and residents. Only time can tell how the future use of social media will be used in solving criminal activities and reporting.