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Shakespeare Police Put Residents in Back Seat with First Ever 'Tweet-Along'

By Darryl Holliday | July 9, 2014 9:33am
 The "social" Logan Square, Wicker Park cops will take the 'hood on a virtual ride-along Thursday.
The "social" Logan Square, Wicker Park cops will take the 'hood on a virtual ride-along Thursday.
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LOGAN SQUARE — The city’s most “social” police officers in the Shakespeare District are gearing up for another full-scale social media push with their first @ChicagoCAPS14 “tweet-along” Thursday afternoon.

Following a string of social media initiatives since December, Logan Square’s officers will take the neighborhood on a so-called ride-along — typically reserved for journalists, politicians and researchers.

“It’s a virtual ride-along with one of our beat cars as they handle their day,” said Capt. Marc Buslik. “We’re not just sticking a crime prevention flier on the window of the local restaurant. We want it to be a little more interactive. We want to use the medium in a way that we normally wouldn’t be able to.”

 The "social" Logan Square, Wicker Park cops will take the neighborhood on a virtual ride-along Thursday.
The "social" Logan Square, Wicker Park cops will take the neighborhood on a virtual ride-along Thursday.
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That outlook has made the Shakespeare District the most followed Twitter account among the six initial Chicago Police Department pilot programs focusing on social media that began last year.

The Northwest Side department has more than double the number of followers among the six, with 1,115 followers as of July. But Buslik said he doesn’t put much stock in the numbers alone.

“I think we’ve been successful, but it’s wrong to use the number of followers as a method,” he said Tuesday. “We try not to do it quantitatively but qualitatively. Are we engaging the community? Are we tweeting things that are interesting and relevant?”

"Which is why we’ve gone through some changes," he added. "We know nothing’s carved in granite. The technology evolves, and how people use it evolves."

The Shakespeare District is strategic about its Twitter use — having learned lessons from residents, officers and the disastrous use of the #myNYPD hashtag by the New York City Police Department in April.

“You’ll find that we rarely use hashtags,” for example, Buslik said. “It doesn’t give you as much as it could cost you … I was less concerned with that, but more so that it wasn’t going to give us what we wanted.”

The tweet-along, however, is a step in the right direction, he said. Unlike the department’s Twitter Town Hall initiative in April, Thursday’s tweet-along will focus less on answering residents' questions and more on showing what an officer does each day through photos and a regular stream of tweets.

The district’s Twitter account is already heavily used, sharing everything from CAPS meeting schedules, crime prevention tips and missing child photos to details on recovered guns in the neighborhood, historic Shakespeare District photos and suspect mug shots — but the tweet-along is meant to offer a specific glimpse into the life of your neighborhood beat cop, according to Buslik.

Tweets will be sent by an actual Shakespeare District officer and will generally update beginning at 3:30 p.m. with roll call and ending about four hours later.

“We’re trying, like any other department. If you were to monitor a police department, big or small, you’d find that there are a lot of little things going on,” Buslik said. “It’s really about using social media to become more engaged with the community. We want to be a little less esoteric and get people engaged.”

The Shakespeare District encompasses areas in Logan Square, Humboldt Park and Wicker Park between Belmont Avenue to Division Street and Central Park Avenue to the Chicago River.

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