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Officer Down

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Elgin police using social media to fight crime

--Law enforcement of the future--

Story at Daily Herald

By Elena Ferrarin

Kristie Hilton never thought that posting on Facebook and Twitter would become part of her daily tasks after more than 15 years with the Elgin Police Department.

The senior management analyst, who works in crime analysis plus mobile and records management systems, is responsible for posting on the department’s Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts. She also created a Google+ account for the department, but it’s not in use yet.

“I do enjoy it,” she said. “It’s an extension of our community outreach. We’re trying to get a more open line of communication to them.”

Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said he’s always looking for ways to reach the community as much as possible.

The department posts news releases, information about everything from lost dogs to traffic accidents, and even security surveillance photos of crime suspects on Facebook.

Suspects’ photos are posted only after having “exhausted everything in house,” Swoboda said. “We will not post without the lead detective being OK with it.”

The page, approaching 1,800 likes, started to pick up in March after the murder of Elgin resident Lisa Koziol-Ellis, Hilton said. Koziol-Ellis’ neighbor, Paul A. Johnson, was charged with the crime and is awaiting trial.

The department jointed Twitter a few months ago and has 43 followers.

“It’s starting to get interactive, but it seems like Facebook is the one that people use the most. That’s where I’ve been focusing more,” Hilton said.

Elgin police is also on Pinterest, where it “pins” photos, articles about the department, Elgin-related community boards and more.

Hilton said she gets ideas from a few departments across the country — such as Philadelphia — that are extremely active on social media.

There’s an increase in anonymous tips whenever the department asks on Facebook for information about crimes, Swoboda said.

Still, it’s important to remember that 1,800 people are a small fraction of Elgin’s nearly 110,000 residents, he said.

“I don’t want to ever become reliant on any type of electronic conversation,” he said. “Nothing through the computer is ever going to replace the face-to-face interaction, and policing is something that’s done in person and talking to people.”