Crime is a very serious issue in many neighborhoods in Philadelphia. There are a number of ways residents deal with criminal activity within their community, but social media offers a unique opportunity to reach out to residents. The purpose of this blog entry is to inform local Community Based Organizations (CBOs) about the benefits of using social media to help residents stay informed about crime in their community. Social media and other digital technologies can be used to raise awareness about crime in the area and instantly relay vital information to a broad and intellectually diverse subset of the population.
As explained in the Digital Sustainably Conversationsarticle, over 75% of Americans are not online and have access to multiple forms of social media. More and more Americans are becoming tech-savvy and relying heavily on the internet for information. The New Generation of Public Participation: Internet-based Participation Tools article goes on to explain that word now seems to be traveling through social media rather than the front stoop. I think it is really important in regards to crime, to embrace social media to communicate with residents about crime in their neighborhood.
It is important to focus on crime issues within the neighborhood and consider the broad and intellectually diverse subset of the population you are reaching out to via social media. For example, many neighborhoods with higher crime rates have a culturally diverse community with a wide range of educational levels. Some forms of social media are probably better suited for some communities than others. It is important to try to figure out the most effective way to raise awareness and instantly alert residents to dangers in the community. Different methods and different social media platforms may yield significantly differently results. It is important to consider your audience to determine the best way to reach out to them through social media.
One of the most important ways social media can be used in regards to crime is to send out automatic alerts with basic information for residents about criminal activity taking place in their neighborhood. Residents can steer clear of danger if CBOs send out alerts via Facebook, Twitter, and email. Temple University uses email alerts to give students information about criminal activity in their area. It is important to remember to continue to engage residents- not just blast them with emails. Social media can be used to report criminal activity and provide additional resources for residents that prefer other means of communication.
It is crucial to engage residents to get feedback about using social media to raise awareness about crime issues, help prevent crime, and gather feedback about how your CBO is using social media. The broad and intellectually diverse subset of the population that you are serving is unique and should be treated as such. There is not a single best approach to establishing social media as a means to reach out to residents about crime in their community. The feedback loop is essential in developing effective social media programs.
Social media can also be used to gather information from the community. In regards to crime, anonymous or confidential reporting methods could be set up to quickly and safely report criminal activity. Protecting residents from any form of retaliation when it comes to reporting criminal activity is extremely important in some parts of the city. It is important that continue to develop more creative ways to actually engage citizens in preventing crime. Using multiple approaches to encourage public participation will help increase the sense of engagement among residents in the community.
In conclusion, your organization using social media platforms and other digital technologies to raise awareness about crime in the area and instantly relay vital information to the community could have a major impact on crime in your community. Social media is becoming an extremely effective way to rapidly communicate with residents and alerts them about potential dangers in the community. Community based organizations should start exploring the capabilities of social media and other digital technologies to reach out to the residents of their community in a fast and convenient manner for residents.