HAMPTON-Social media is helping the Hampton Police Department Police fight crime and let people know what's going on in their neighborhood.
On Facebook and Twitter, public information officers Sgt. Jason Price and Cpl. Mary Shackelford send out alerts on everything from bomb threats to robberies and even posting video when it's available.
"I was in a staff meeting and everyone kind of chuckled when I said I was going to put out my first tweet," recalls Price.
It's not just crime they're tweeting about. Price made a video welcoming Phish fan to the Hampton Coliseum in October.
"A lot of times, local police and fans have a bad connection and so we wanted to start off with a friendly message to say welcome," he said.
The message was received loud and clear - with 150,000 shares - and a positive response from concert goers.
At that moment, they realized they could get a serious message out using the sites to reach young people.
"We started getting teenagers that were following us on Twitter," said Price. "It's a demographic that we haven't been able to connect with - ever - and it's cost us virtually nothing.
With nearly 800 followers on police department's Twitter feed and nearly 3,000 "likes" on its Facebook page, Price and Shackelford are now hitting the airwaves. They've started their own TV station. Shackelford anchors the police department's news.
"It's a learning experience. It goes to our message of transparency and the vision as well," she said.
So far, the Hampton Police Department has spent about $10,000 on all the equipment. It's well worth the cost, Price believes, because the department connects with the public in a way it never has before and it doesn't have to depend on newspapers and TV stations to get information out.
The department just ended its Citizen Observer email alert. Sgt. Price says the division will soon be unveiling a new program for citizens to help research crime that has occurred in their neighborhoods, be alerted to crime trends and receive crime prevention tips.