Cambridge police begin reporting crimes in real time on Twitter

cambridge police twitter boston
The Cambridge Police Department now tweets certain crimes in real time.
Credit: Michael Naughton/METRO

It’s sort of like watching “COPS” in 140 characters or less.

The Cambridge Police Department is now tweeting certain crimes in real time, the department announced Tuesday.

The initiative is meant to promote transparency and information to the public about what’s going on in their community, said police Commissioner Robert Haas.

“This is something we’ve had in the works for a while,” Haas said in a statement.  “We believe strongly in the ability of social media to communicate with the public in a timely manner, and tweeting information about serious incidents will better inform our residents about what types of incidents police are responding to in their community.”

About the same time the department sent out a news release announcing the launch of the new initiative, a reported crime popped up on its Twitter feed.

“02/19/13 08:57 REPORT OF POSSIBLE ASSAULT IN PROGRESS ON BLAKE ST IN #CAMBMA,” @cambridgepolice tweeted.

Only certain crimes will be posted on the Twitter feed. Police officials decided on a list of 18 crimes to automatically tweet out for various reasons.

“We could be tweeting constantly, but we don’t want to be inundating people with every incident we are responding to,” said Dan Riviello, a police department spokesman.

While the initiative is new in this region, the Seattle Police Department launched a similar program last year.

The Cambridge police twitter feed was active mainly during business hours, but now it will be updated as crimes are reported.

There is a built-in delay between when the crimes are reported to dispatchers and when they’re posted on Twitter to allow for police officers to respond to scenes first. Riviello would only say that the delay is minutes, and less than 30 minutes, but a review of the posting times and times reported showed that the delay is about seven or eight minutes.

Riviello said the public being informed of what’s going on in their city is the ultimate goal of the initiative. He said people being informed of a description of a person who may have robbed a bank and is feeling toward the T might help police in their arrest efforts.

“We don’t want people to take the law into their own hands, but the more people that know what’s going on, the better they can be at helping us catch the bad guys.”

Last year the department made available an app for citizens to report certain crimes or issues on their mobile phones. Arrest and calls logs are also posted daily on the department’s website.

The availability of information is meant to show citizens that they should reach out to the department.

“The idea is always to share as much information as we can with our community. The more we let people know about crime and people are aware about what’s going on, then in turn they’ll communicate with us,” said Riviello.

Reported crimes
Calls posted on the department’s Twitter page will always start with “report of” because sometimes calls do not turn out to be what they are reported as:
* “02/19/13 14:28 REPORT OF POSSIBLE FIGHT ON CAMBRIDGE ST IN #CAMBMA”
* “02/18/13 21:38 REPORT OF POSSIBLE ASSAULT IN PROGRESS ON CONCORD TPKE IN #CAMBMA”
* “02/16/13 02:12 REPORT OF POSSIBLE PERSON WITH GUN ON HAMPSHIRE ST IN #CAMBMA”

What’s being tweeted
Only certain crimes will be posted in real time:
*A&B DW in Progress Assault
*Armed Robbery
*Attempted Armed Robbery
*Attempted Robbery
*Assault in Progress
*Bank Robbery in Progress
*Carjacking in Progress Larceny of MV
*Fight
*Found Child
*Bomb Threats
*Kidnapping
*Missing Person/Child
*Larceny in Progress
*Person with Gun
*Robbery in Progress
*Street Blocked
*Tree Down
*Unarmed Robbery

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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