ENID, Okla. — This year, Enid Police Department has been making a concerted effort to reach the residents they serve via social media.
Capt. Tim Jacobi said during training he attended, one of the instructors said if law enforcement weren't using social media to communicate with the public it was the same as ignoring someone asking for help in the station's lobby.
"The catalyst for this was some law enforcement training I attended last fall about law enforcement's use of social media," Jacobi said. He said an instructor told them, "If we're not available and responsive on social media, then that is the same response as someone coming into the lobby at the police station and an asking for help and never being able to talk to anyone or receive any help.
"That struck a chord with me."
Jacobi said he met with Chief Brian O'Rourke to share what he learned at the training. They discussed getting more out of the department's social media accounts.
"After that class, I met with the chief and talked about some of the ideas I’d been exposed to and we decided to assign those duties," Jacobi said.
Jacobi, Lt. Greg Gordon and detectives Shawn Aebi and Nicholas Shackleford, took on the duties of monitoring and posting to the department's social media accounts.
In January, the effort to reach more residents and respond to the concerns and comments from the public began in earnest.
"Before, there was never anyone assigned to monitor, respond or post on any of our social media," Jacobi said. "We weren’t using it very often at all."
Previously, the department's Facebook page had a 60% reply rate with a response time of about 12 hours. Now, the response rate is 97% with a six minute response time. The page had 11,249 followers and 10,957 likes Saturday.
According to a 2018 Pew Research Center study, about two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%) report they are Facebook users, and roughly three-quarters of those users access Facebook on a daily basis. With the exception of those 65 and older, a majority of Americans across a wide range of demographic groups use Facebook.
Jacobi said the department used its Facebook page earlier this week to help officers identify two men suspected in a recent car burglary. Images of the pair taken from surveillance video was posted to the department's Facebook page asking the public to help identify the men.
"In 30 minutes, we had some promising leads in identifying those suspects," Jacobi said. "When you look at the analytics, it shows we are gaining more followers, communicating with more people and it has certainly helped us solve more crimes. We’ve basically opened the door on other forms of communication with the public we serve."
Aebi said there have been occasions when someone contacted police via social media because it was the their only means of communication.
There was a man who only spoke Spanish who reached out to police through Facebook messenger. The man saw men with guns across the street from his residence and was using a Spanish to English translator to create messages to send to police about the incident.
"He wasn't certain he would be able to communicate effectively if he called 911," Aebi said. "At one point, I asked if he could call dispatch and he said he couldn't speak English and this was the only way he could communicate."
Another time, Aebi said the department was contacted by a man with only a laptop and internet connection. The man said his ex was attempting to break into his residence and had shut off service to his cellphone, preventing him from calling 911.
Jacobi, Gordon and Aebi all said in emergency situations, those in need of police or emergency assistance should always first try calling 911.
"It’s been really positive as far as community involvement," Gordon said of the department's use of social media.
"We don't function very well if the community is not helping in some way, shape or form," Aebi said. "It's a team effort for sure."
Jacobi said the department recently joined with the Neighbors by Ring app as another way to connect with residents. Ring launched the Neighbors app in May of 2018 as a free way for community members and local law enforcement to share real-time local crime and safety information whether or not they own a Ring device.
The Neighbors app allows users to share and communicate with neighbors about crime and safety, providing real-time, local crime data on your device.
Residents must verify location in order to post or comment and all users post anonymously, like a tipline. Law Enforcement can view what residents are sharing, engage the public in their investigations and provide residents with hyper-local crime and safety information, with those who post remaining anonymous.
Law enforcement can only see posts that users share publicly. Law enforcement does not have access to users’ devices, video or data.
Neighbors enables Enid Police Department to share important crime and safety updates with local communities in real-time, request information about local crime and safety situations from Neighbors who opt-in to sharing for a particular request.
Neighbors posts are shareable with other major social platforms. All videos, images and text can be uploaded and posted to Neighbors. Videos from all cameras can be uploaded. Neighbors allows users to choose whether to share their Ring videos with law enforcement in the app.
Law enforcement can view the publicly available content in the Neighbors app and request content from Neighbors in a certain area and time range where an incident may have occurred. If law enforcement is interested in seeing a certain video, Ring will ask the user if he/she is willing to share footage with law enforcement. The police do not have a way to contact users outside of the app, which keeps identities hidden.
"If we're investigating a crime at a particular address, the app allows us to go in and communicate with everyone on the app within a specific geographic area, which may or may not include any video from neighbors or residents in the area," Jacobi said. "Before, we were limited to just door-to-door area canvasses to see if anyone heard anything. We can do this in one shot."
"People are more likely to look and respond because they can be anonymous and not have to open their door," Aebi said.
Enid residents can text "enidok" to 555888 from their smartphone to download the Neighbors app for free on iOS and Android, or visit https://download.ring.com/enid on their smartphone to download the app.
Once downloaded, residents can join their digital neighborhood and use the app to monitor neighborhood activity, share crime and safety-related videos, photos and text-based posts; and receive regional safety alerts from their neighbors, local law enforcement and the Ring team in real time.