Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Benicia Police Department establishes Facebook presence

(Originally published in the 12/8/15 edition)

   Community interaction with the Benicia Police Department is about to become a lot easier, as the Department just joined the ever popular social networking site Facebook.
   Although over 1 billion people worldwide use Facebook, until recently the Benicia Police Department was not among them. However, as of Thursday, Dec. 3, the Department now has its own page where the community can interact with the organization and see its recent activities.
   “It was long overdue,” Benicia Police Chief Erik Upson said. “We recognize the benefits of social media, and we have seen a lot of other agencies use it very effectively.”
   According to Upson, the impetus to set up a Facebook account came from past incidents where the Department felt it could have been beneficial.
   “We’ve had a couple of cases in the last few months where it would have been very helpful to have a presence on social media,” he said. “we did not have that presence which kind of limited our ability to communicate with the community as effectively as we would have liked to.” 
   With the support of City Manager Brad Kilger, the agency was able move forward and get its Facebook page set up. Among the items included are photos and updates about recent crime incidents and the Department’s presence at community events like Friday’s Annual Benicia Tree Lighting.
   “As a department, one of our key focuses is community collaboration, so there will be a lot of emphasis on collaborating with the community,” he said. “Crime fighting is foundational to what we do, so we’re really looking to partner with the community on that.”
   According to Upson, the page is a collaborative effort among many members of the Department.
   “Everybody helps us find content and there’s a core team that operates it,” he said. “Our Facebook is not monitored continuously, but we do encourage everyone in the community to like the page, and they’ll find it’s a very good resource for getting information and sharing information back with us as well.” 
   As of press time, around 900 people have liked the Department’s page. Upson says he wants it to be a resource for the entire community.
   “We hope it’s completely a two-way street,” he said. “We want as many people in the community as we can actively participating in our Facebook page, sharing it as appropriate and commenting and adding to the conversation.”
   Upson encourages citizens to post if they’ve witnessed any nearby crime, but he feels confidential tips should be given over the phone or through private messages. 
   Facebook will not be the Department’s only social media site. In the near future, Benicia Police hopes to create a Twitter account to provide citizens updates on more immediate matters.
   “Facebook is our first step into social media as a department,” Upson said. “It’s our hope as we move forward that we start utilizing some other tools.” 
   Overall, Upson hopes the page will allow the Department to communicate with the community in a new way.
   “The ultimate goal is to communicate much more openly and transparently with the community,” he said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement in that area, and we’re really going to be focusing on that this coming year. Keeping the community informed and engaged is a huge part of keeping the community safe.”

   To like the page, go to Facebook and visit “Benicia Police Department.”

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