Sheriff’s office joins Twitter crowd

CNJ illustration Last month the sheriff’s office joined the growing Twitter network in the interest of improving communication with community members.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

The Curry County Sheriff’s Office is looking for followers — on Twitter, that is.

Last month the sheriff’s office joined the growing Twitter network in the interest of improving communication with community members.

Undersheriff Wesley Waller, who manages the office’s profile on the social networking site, said it is a “media outlet that’s gaining popularity in this area, and for us, it’s a fast and convenient way to disseminate information to the public.”

Twitter is a “real time, short messaging service,” created in 2006, according to twitter.com. It can be accessed via most cell phones and the Internet.

Users create profiles and select other users to “follow.” When users post a “tweet,” their followers receive a notice of the update.

Estimates place the number of Twitter users somewhere between 5 million and 10 million.

The idea to use Twitter to communicate with the public struck in mid-June, Waller said, when a local garment alterations business was robbed and the clerk beaten. The suspect remains at large, but, using Twitter “enabled us to get out a complete description of the suspect that we were looking for,” he said.

What makes Twitter appealing is the fact that many people receive new posts on their cell phones, Waller said, making it possible to get information to people immediately as they are out and about and away from their computers.

And that convenience is a two-way street.

“It immediately gets information out; I don’t have to be sitting at a computer. I could be at a crime scene and actually send this information out through my cell phone so it’s much quicker,” he said.

The department is hoping that being able to alert people to suspect and crime information or things that are happening will not only help the department, Waller said, but will benefit the community as well.

Since June 17, the department has posted about half a dozen tweets letting people know about everything from an upcoming DWI saturation patrol to the sentencing of a sex offender, felony arrests and suspect information from the June 11 robbery.

As of Monday evening, the sheriff’s office profile had 17 followers.

Since Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters each, Waller said some of the department’s tweets just give brief information, while others provide links to full press releases and other information.

Waller said the sheriff’s office is also working on a new Web site, which they hope to launch soon to continue to further their ability to communicate and provide information to the public.

The Web site will contain information about the department, press releases, employment information, current events and more.