NJ Troopers fight crime with Twitter

May 7, 2009 3:54:23 PM PDT
The New Jersey State Police have added Twitter to their arsenal of crimefighting tools. It's the social networking website that allows followers to use a cell phone or computer to send and receive short messages.

RELATED: Follow the New Jersey State Police on Twitter

When NJ State Police located the wreck of the sunken scallop boat Lady Mary at the bottom of the Atlantic recently using an underwater rover, they used Twitter to spread the word the dooomed ship had been found.

RELATED STORY: Wreckage of the Lady Mary found

"It's a way to get information very quickly to a large number of people. That message is automatically going to be blasted down to everybody who subscribes that account," said Sgt. Steve Jones of the New Jersey State Police.

Sgt. Jones says, in this digital age when the media and the public want instant access to information, sending "tweets"--or short messages no longer than 140 characters--makes sense. And it's already paid off.

One message he sent out on Twitter helped locate a hit and run driver.

"Within, probably, a matter of minutes it got onto some of the blog sites and people actually saw, somebody called in, saying 'I've seen a vehicle that fits that description.'"

Sending updates on Twitter also frees up the public information officers who field scores of calls during a breaking news event.

"It actually enables us to send out this information using one message as opposed to doing 25 phone calls," said Lt. Gerry Lewis of the New Jersey State Police.

State Police originally started using Twitter to reach the media but it's catching on with the public. Now hundreds of people have signed on to keep up with the alerts they put out.

"For people who are on their computers all the time, and you get a flash, like an instant message, I can see how that would be useful," said Claudia Tahan of Cherry Hill.

"If you can tweet and actually find that information right away, instead of waiting or waiting for somebody to dispatch that information to you, that would be great," said Lola Davis of Eatontown, New Jersey.

Troopers may not have been taught "tweeting" at the academy, but State Police are taking advantage of the latest technology to help them fight crime and get their message out quickly.

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