Police tap into Twitter to keep public informed / Quick blogging tool finds wide following

FRANKLIN, MASSACHUSETTS U.S. Police tap into Twitter to keep public informed Quick blogging tool finds wide following By Rachel Lebeaux, Globe Correspondent | March 29, 2009

"Rte. 128/I-95 N Northbound at Exit 22: Grove St, Medical emergency: Lft tw lns clsd. Use cau."

"**TRAFFIC ALERT** Rt 495 SB at Ex 16 (KING STREET), MV crash, all traffic being diverted off highway to King Street. Avoid Area."

The cryptic communiqués might resemble text messages from teenagers, but they're actually bits of useful public information from local police departments, distilled down to 140 characters or less and disseminated immediately to residents on Twitter, a social networking platform that was launched in 2006 but has recently seemed to catch on with everyone from high school students to US senators across the country.

Police departments in Franklin and Wellesley (Massachusetts) have been leading the way by using Twitter to push out information on traffic and other activities. And now the service is gaining popularity, or at least scrutiny, at other area departments.

Boston's Police Department launched its Twitter account this month, with the Fire Department expected to follow shortly.

Police in Wayland are thinking about it, and so is Newton's Police Department, where Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker observed: "We'll take a look at anything that can assist us in getting information out."

Twitter is a blogging tool that allows users to post short messages, up to 140 characters, which are then blasted out to their "followers"

- individuals who sign up to receive their Twitter messages, or "tweets."

Participants can send out tweets as often as they like, allowing them to share information in real time.

This immediacy drew Wellesley and Franklin police into the fold in

2007, ahead of many departments nationwide.


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