Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Is Twitter a new weapon for law enforcement?

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Vancouver Police are taking their fight against crime online.

Beginning Thursday morning, the department began a unique 24-hour project which involves posting all calls for service at a brand new Twitter account they just set up.

Officials say they will take safeguards to ensure privacy and safety issues are addressed, such as withholding specific addresses and personal information in their Tweets.

This is the first time I’m aware of any Canadian police department doing this, and for that they should be applauded.

It comes on the heels of a similar effort earlier this year from a British police force and a scaled-down version by Seattle police in an attempt to curb rising auto-theft rates.

Twitter is becoming an increasingly valuable tool to spread news quickly and communicate with a vast audience. And what better way to take advantage of technology than by giving people a detailed glimpse at a "day in the life" of a big city police service.

Granted, this may be more about public relations than public safety, but there’s nothing wrong with being as transparent as possible. No doubt many other police agencies in Canada and beyond would be wise to follow their lead.

"You will see a variety of police calls which will give you insight into what the VPD does on a typical day," Const. Anne Longley wrote Thursday morning in explaining what would be happening.

There’s already been a handful of interesting posts, including this gem:

"Report of possibly intoxicated woman dancing on street and impeding pedestrians and traffic."

The public is obviously interested in what they Vancouver cops have to say, with more than 1,600 people already following them since they first came online. No doubt that audience will continue to grow.

A reminder you can also follow my live justice beat coverage on Twitter.

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About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.

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