HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Facebook and Twitter have changed the landscape for how communities interact and stay informed, and when it comes to utilizing social media to police and protect – the Honolulu Police Department is one of the top in the Nation. Honolulu P.D. ranks 13 out of 50 in a new list of the "Most Social Media Friendly Police Departments", according to a web assessment by MPHProgramsList.com.
Police departments are going digital. Look no further than the tweets and posts that went our Friday afternoon – immediately alerting folks to Waikiki road closures and a partial evacuation after an unattended bag was found near the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.
"You can get a text message, an email message or a prompt on your Facebook that will alert you to, 'Hey, this is here!' and you might have time now to prepare for that situation and use an alternate route that will save you the hassle," explained Captain Andrew Lum, who oversees the Honolulu Police Department's Virtual Unit.Officials say it's a two-way street. According to H.P.D., tips from the public on social media sites, like their Na Maka page, have helped identify eight wanted individuals and lead to their arrest. Experts say sites like Facebook and Twitter can dramatically expand a department's reach.
"The possibilities are literally exponential," described Professor Tom Kelleher, Chair of the University of Hawaii at Manoa's School of Communications. "The head of Google is saying eventually the entire world is gonna be online – so it is ridiculous how fast and how wide something can spread, but realistically it's going to depend on people sharing that information with their networks."
But lessons learned in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing prove not everything shared on social media sites can be trusted.
"Any kind of posting – whether it's on Facebook, a tweet, a Nixle, an email – double check it, look at a different source to verify the information is true and accurate, and don't jump to conclusions," cautioned Chris Duque, a retired H.P.D. detective, who is now working as a cyber security advocate.
Honolulu Police officials say the national recognition means the department is doing something right.
"There was no manuals or instruction on how to do social media from a law enforcement perspective, as a social tool for the public it's great because you just do your own thing, but for us it was a lot of trial and error to figure out how we can apply it responsibly," said Capt. Lum.