A.T.B.(All Tweet Bulletin):Twitter Used To Post Tiller Suspect Description

This morning George Tiller, a Wichita, KS abortion provider was fatally shot as he attended church services. You can read a chronicle of Dr. Tiller’s slaying in The Wichita Eagle.

Journalists and witnesses used the social media utility Twitter to post updates as information developed. Within hours the hashtag “#tiller” (in Twitter-speak a hashtag is any word created with a “#” placed before it making it a searchable item in the Twitter search directory) was created, a limited description of the suspect (a white male), a vehicle description and the license plate number were posted via Twitter. In essence an A.T.B. (All Tweet Bulletin) was issued via Twitter. Here is one tweet, (the name for a Twitter post) sent by @anamariecox via another Twitterer,@TeresaKopec.

“Tiller killer on run. 90’s era light blue Ford Taurus with Kansas tags. Registered in Merriam, Ks.Tags:225-BAB #tiller(via@TeresaKopec)”

Well around 3pm The Wichita Eagle reported the arrest of a suspect connected to the slaying. Now I don’t know if a tweet helped to catch the alleged culprit, but the proliferation of Twitter as a crime prevention and crime watch tool is perceptible.

Crime reports are public record. Once description and crime details are made public by law enforcement, a hashtag could be created and then used to extend such information to the public. The websites for Amber AlertsFBI Most Wanted and  National Center for Exploited and Missing Children make new media tools like cyber tiplines and wireless mobile phone alerts available to the digital citizen. Twitter can also be a benefit to community policing.

However, if used incorrectly, I can see how Twitter could set off a type of social-media vigilantism.  For example, suppose a “twitizen”, a citizen that uses Twitter, who is also part of a neighborhood watch witnesses a neighbor’s vehicle being broken into. Mr. Twitizen yells at the wrongdoer who then runs away. If Mr. Twitizen decides to post a“tweet” with description information prior to or instead of contacting the police and consequently organizes a group via Twitter to search and chase the wrongdoer, there is a possibility of negative consequences.

Many companies are seeking the knowledge of a social media specialist to market and manage public relations. Seems to me, a neighborhood watch community is a bad place for a stick up and a good place for the local police department to hire a social and new media specialist to instruct citizens on how to become safe “twitizens” and prevent my scenario from becoming a reality. A social media specialist could help police advocate to the communities they serve, responsible usage of social and new media utilities.

Most police departments have anonymous tiplines which provide citizens a means to give information about a crime without comprimising personal identity. In no way am I advocating their elimination. However I can see Twitter as an opportunity for both citizens and law enforcement to embrace social media as well as use it to work together in the interest of public and personal safety.

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1 Comment

  1. There is obviously a lot to know about this. There are some good points here. 🙂


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