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NYPD Expands Social Media Use to Better Understand Residents' Concerns

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | March 27, 2015 8:40am
 Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti has been tapped by the NYPD to launch a new social media program.
Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti has been tapped by the NYPD to launch a new social media program.
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

QUEENS — The NYPD will expand its use of social media in an effort to better understand issues and concerns of local communities, police officials said Thursday.

The department, which in recent months has been increasingly using social media including Twitter and Facebook, will now also use IdeaScale, an online platform that utilizes crowdsourcing to seek ideas and feedback.

The 109th Precinct, which covers Flushing, Whitestone and College Point, will be the first to roll out the new initiative, as first reported by the New York Times.

Users will be able to share ideas and upvote posts they consider important, which will help police determine which issues resonate within particular communities.

The goal, according to the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Strategic Initiatives Zach Tumin, is to “build another bridge to our communities to help them shape the police agenda."

"IdeaScale helps us poll communities on issues and topics that might be of concern to them and then gives them an opportunity to vote them up and down and tell us what their priorities are," Tumin said. 

The program, which will kick off during a 109th Precinct Community Council meeting slated to be held at the recently opened Police Academy in College Point on April 8, will allow residents to voice their concerns and submit suggestions, police officials said.

Residents will also be able to respond to questions posted by police representatives, for example about how can "police and community ... work together at the new police academy for community purposes," Tumin said, or what a group of young people, who are available to work at a precinct in the summer, should be doing.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has embraced social media.

Last year, the NYPD gave Twitter handles to all precinct commanders and some of the city's subway lines.

But Tumin said that while "Twitter calls matters to attention," IdeaScale will allow police to have "a focused conversation" with a larger group of residents. The discussions will also give local precincts "good guidance about … the issues that need to be addressed." 

The 109th Precinct was selected for the program after Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, its commanding officer, expressed an interest in exploring the new initiative, Tumin said.

Conforti, who started the 112th Precinct Twitter handle before being reassigned to the 109th Precinct last year, was one of the five commanding officers who were tapped by the NYPD to be part of a pilot program to tweet about neighborhood crime issues last April, before the initiative was expanded to all precincts. 

"We feel that there are many concerns and there are many issues that people have that aren’t coming to our attention and those are the people we want to hear from," he said. 

Those who have shared their email address with the precinct and local civic association will be asked to join the program via a link that will be sent to their accounts on April 8. More residents will be able to sign up soon after, police officials said.

Conforti said that only those who register will be able to see the posts.

He noted that this may encourage some residents who want to share information but didn't want to do it on Twitter, where posts can be seen by everyone. 

"The people who will post are going to be from their own community group established through this platform," Conforti said, adding that he expects to hear a lot about traffic in the area and other quality-of-life issues.

If successful, the initiative will be expanded to other police precincts, Tumin said.