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March 20, 2009

Baltimore police twitter a shooting

Baltimore police twittered their first shooting this morning.

About 9:15 a.m., 25 minutes after the first 911 call, city cops put this up on Twitter: "Baltimore Police SHOOTING: Police investigating @ RUTLAND @ OLIVER ST."

The author of the post was chief spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, who just recently created a Facebook page. "I've conquered Facebook, now I'm tackling Twitter,"  he told me.

Guglielmi said he's copying other police departments around the country, such as in Boston and San Antonio.  "San Antonio puts out all the accidents," he said. Boston police is very active, they're on there all the time. They put up a shooting on there yesterday, a robbery last week."

Guglielmi said he chose this particular shooting to highlight because it involved a 16-year-old seriously hurt. He and his counterparts around the country will have to decide how to use Twitter, and Facebook, to communicate. At least four major departments use Twitter, some to post breaking crime, others to issue news releases or highlight awards.

I certainly embrace this type of openness.

Here's an example from the Boston Police Department's Twitter page:

BANK ROBBERY: Brighton, 2000 Beacon St, Citizens Bank, bank robbery task force is responding. half a minute ago from TwitterBerry
PERSON SHOT: Roslindale, 27 Beechland St, detectives setting up crime scene, avoid the area. about 14 hours ago from web
Internal Memo From Police Commissioner Davis: A MESSAGE FROM THE POLICE COMMISSIONER I would like to take this o.. http://tinyurl.com/cgzx2a about 16 hours ago from twitterfeed
STABBING: Roxbury Crossing, 1400 Tremont St, man stabbed on MBTA platform, EMS and detectives on scene, expect delays. about 19 hours ago from TwitterBerry
DAILY INCIDENTS FOR THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2009: Suspect Arrested After Stealing Car, Attempted B&E

In trying to put up crime maps for Baltimore and suburbs, I've run into astonishing roadblocks from agencies that are reluctant to surrender the data, some saying outright it wouldn't be in their political interest to tell people how much crime is occurring and where it's happening. Other departments, such as Anne Arundel County and soon Baltimore County, are or are in the process of providing us information. We publish a crime map for Arundel and a homicide map for the city.

A great place to see what other departments are doing is on the FBI's Twitter site. Click to see who is following the FBI and more than 100 other departments come up. I clicked on a few and quickly learned that many of the Twitter sites are still in their infancy. The San Jose, Calif, department for example has a Twitter from March 13 that says only, "Drive Safely!"

The Anne Arundel County Police also twitter -- they put up daily press briefings and emergency road closures. Twitter seems to me an avenue to quickly report news snippets as they are happening. Police will have to decide whether that's the best way of imparting breaking crime news and updates.

It seems to me that Facebook might be best for releases and Twitter for news as it's happening now. That's not always easy given the fluididity of crime news. What goes out over a police scanner is often wrong, and departments don't want to publish information and then have to retract it later. Hence the vague Twitter on the East Baltimore shooting. It didn't give details that reporters could hear over the scanner -- that a 16-year-old had been shot in the shoulder and lung.

About the same time the Twitter came out, the Baltimore Sun had a short story published on the shooting. It's all part of the new technology. Baltimore Police also are considering sending crime alert text messages to your cell phones.

Here is a news release Anne Arundel County Police put out this morning about Twitter:

3 20 09 Twitter Release 3 20 09 Twitter Release Peter Hermann

Posted by Peter Hermann at 9:34 AM | | Comments (0)
        

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About Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.

Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.



Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting. A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.
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