Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed these agencies to not only mingle online with their followers or subscribers, but also be effective in reaching out to more people at one time than ever before.
At the Canton Police Department, social networking has given the department “another opportunity to reach people that we haven’t in the past,” said Det. Candy Worthy, public information officer for the department.
Canton Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division has a Facebook page under the name Canton Pd Cid, which it mainly uses for criminal investigations and to provide residents with tips and ideas on how to remain safe.
Facebook has also allowed Canton police to have their followers identify people in head shots, which has helped solve crimes, the detective said.
Worthy said these sites, particularly Facebook, have allowed them to reach on-the-go people who have electronic devices with social networking software preloaded on them.
“Our citizens can look at information that we have posted even if they are not in the area,” she added.
The Woodstock Police Department said its use of social media has allowed residents to send tips and concerns on a broad range of topics such as thefts, barking dogs and noise complaints, Public Information Officer Randy Milligan said.
Woodstock police uses Twitter, Facebook and Nixle, a social networking website strictly for law enforcement officials.
The Woodstock Fire Department started using Facebook about six months ago and had been using Twitter and Nixle, a website which sends law enforcement alerts to residents who sign up.
Milligan said the department mainly uses these sites to send information on traffic, weather, city street closing and repairs, event information, safety tips, and alerts about local crime trends.
The websites, he added, have been a great tool to disseminate information to a great number of people and said the department has received positive feedback from the public.
“By using the social media sites it allows the department to continually relay relevant, important information to our citizens in which they can read at their leisure,” he said, adding the websites also offer transparency between the department and the citizens.
Woodstock Assistant Fire Chief Jim Eley said the department uses Facebook to inform residents about time-sensitive information, bad weather and red flag days in which there are fire warnings.
Both the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office and the Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services have jumped on the social networking bandwagon.
The sheriff’s office had been using Twitter and Nixle for a while, but joined Facebook about six months ago, said public information officer Lt. Jay Baker.
He noted there was no hesitation on the agency’s part, since they “simply allowed us additional ways to improve communication with the public.”
Baker said the agency primarily uses Twitter and Nixle to inform residents about weather alerts, road closures and other breaking news.
However, Baker said the department doesn’t “rely solely on these networking sites to communicate with the public.”
The sheriff’s office still communicates through traditional methods such as email, the news media, their website, in person or over the phone.
People can use the department’s Facebook page to submit information and detectives also use the website to submit Be On The Look Out alerts to its followers.
“Using these sites are convenient, inexpensive, and the information is distributed to the public immediately,” he added.
Cherokee Fire recently joined Facebook and is also exploring the possibility of using Twitter, said Public Information Officer Tim Cavender.
Cavender said he hopes the department can use these websites to “increase fire and emergency awareness” and to keep the public updated on what’s going on within the agency.
He also said the department can learn a thing or two from the public, adding they will be able to “get insights on what is on the minds of our citizens of our county and how we can better serve them.”
Actively engaging with the public is part of what Cavender calls his department’s attempt to keep up with modern technology to reach out to a citizenry that craves instant gratification and information.
“Times have changed since the advent of radio, television and newspaper,” he said. “This is the digital age and we have newer ways of getting news out to the public quicker than ever before. The most difficult part of this is staying up-to-date with the times.”