Upper Darby Police Uses Twitter To Engage Community

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Sarah Glover
    Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood with the department's ghost tweeter.

    The Upper Darby Police Department is showing its personality -- not just on the town's streets, but now on Twitter.

    "Two intoxicated males arrested by UD Patrol Ofcs for fighting over the last beer. C'mon fellas...Bro's before brew!" the department tweeted on August 18.

    Followed by: "Hey underage drinkers- you prob shouldn't walk down State Rd with a case of beer like the 19 yr old last night. But , hey, thanks #eztarget"

    The cheeky tweets were in response to a disturbance near the police department headquarters. And probably not what you'd expect from police.

    Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood, approved the department's use of Twitter earlier this year. But, he needed a quarterback, someone to monitor the @UDPolice handle 24/7. 

    "I don't want cops and robbers stuff (on there)," said Chitwood.

    In the age of tight budgets, there was no money to hire someone for the social media job. Using the new platform required a man in blue to pick up the additional tasks of posting, monitoring and answering mentions and messages.

    So one officer added tweeting as part of his keyboard duties and has done so with zeal.

    The timeline of tweets is a mix of comedy, police work and community engagement. Since March, the ghost writer has been tweeting from the department handle. 

    "It's been great. Even the derogatory ones I chuckle about," said the tweeting officer who asked not to be named. He said that they've been called "pigs" or worse on Twitter. But, that doesn't bother him. The department has reached out to Twitter critics via direct message inviting them to coffee. No one has taken them up on the in-person meeting yet.

    From time to time, they get a high-five from followers like Sean Burns @homeBruns who tweeted: "S/O to the boys in black! Keepin us all safe! #staysafe #thanks @UDPolice"

    Jason @GutterTheGreat said: "Thanks for the follow @UDPolice thanks for making our community a safer place."

    Chitwood feels strongly about fostering a relationship with the public and likes the results of doing so on social media. At present, there are 1,016 followers. The ghost tweeter says the general challenge with Twitter is condensing the message. 

    "Imagine taking a 300 page affidavit and turning it into 140 characters," said the officer. He says their Twitter page is really starting to drive more conversation, and bring in information. "People feel more comfortable sitting behind computers than going up to talk to police officers."

    In addition to light-hearted tweets, the department is using Twitter to fight crime and prevent tragedy. Just this week, someone tweeted the department that they were contemplating suicide. Chitwood said police were sent to check on the person and it turned out their account was hacked.

    Better to be safe than sorry.

    "God forbid something like that happens," said Chitwood. "Twitter gives the community instant access to the department. Communication is power."

    The mystery of who's behind the tweets will remain a secret. But the Followers continue to flock, mystery and all.

    Queen Meagan @MeaganG1990 summed it up: "I like the @UDPolice twitter. Love how they straight up tell like it is!"


    Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.