D.C. police using texts, social media to connect with teens

WASHINGTON — In an attempt to connect with younger residents, the D.C. police department is relying on technology to get the job done.

As a result, Police Chief Cathy Lanier says, the department’s engagement with teens has increased more than 1,000 percent: “When we started this in 2008, we had 292 tips. We have over 4,000 now.”

On Monday, Lanier told a group of attorneys general that the department’s tech outreach isn’t a “one size fits all.”

“The way I connect with the Latino community is different than the way I connect with the African-American community,” she said.

Lanier told law officials how the department has implemented technology to reach various people. For instance, officers are pushing an anonymous text tip line, 50411.

The texted tips are sent to individual officer’s phones, including her own, Lanier says of the technology.

That’s led to legitimate tips from young people: One person told officers where weapons were hidden; another gave officers a heads-up on a marijuana growing operation.

“They don’t talk on the phone anymore,” Lanier said. “They text and use Twitter and Kik, so we use those social media things to reach out to kids.”

D.C. Police also maintains an updated listserv for residents by district and has a presence on social media.

The department has its own privacy attorney, who Lanier says she consults whenever D.C. Police begins to explore a new social media platform.

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