Police use Twitter for new leads

ESCONDIDO — A post on Twitter by a police lieutenant helped lead to the whereabouts of an 11-year-old girl who was last seen leaving the swimming pool at her Eagles Point Apartments at 1501 E. Grand Ave. at about 8:30 p.m. on July 11, according to police.
Jasmine Robinson was reported missing by her mother at 11 p.m., and witnesses told police they last saw the girl walking away from the pool with a friend.
Police initiated a 9-1-1 reverse call to residents in the area, went door-to-door in the 100-unit complex and used dogs to track Jasmine’s scent.
Lt. Chris Wynn also used the department’s Twitter page to get the word out to the media before he even arrived at work. “I actually sent the first Twitter out from my driveway at about 2 a.m.,” he said.
It hasn’t yet been a month since the Escondido Police Department created a Twitter account to communicate with the media and the public.
“Instead of doing press releases like we did historically, we decided to go to this other format and use Twitter,” Wynn said.
Twice as many people are following their Twitter site as compared to the number of people who were on the police department’s e-mail list and received press information, he said.
After the initial Twitter message about Jasmine’s disappearance, Wynn posted another one three hours later that included a photo of the girl and more information.
He said he had hoped that television news stations would see the posts and be able to feature the missing girl on the early morning news.
The girl was safely located at about 8 a.m. July 12, three hours after the last Twitter post.
Jasmine fell asleep at a friend’s nearby apartment, and returned home after people at the residence she was at saw her on the news, according to police.
“It worked out exactly the way we wanted it to,” Wynn said.
His final tweet about Jasmine was only six hours after the original one, letting people know she had been found, and also thanking the media.
The Oceanside Police Department is also aware of people using social media, and is committed to keeping up with technology, said Steve Walter, senior crime analyst for the department.
They have been using an alert system since 2008, which generates a text or an e-mail to followers of “Oceanside Alerts,” that inform of local emergencies, crime alerts or missing persons.
Walter said the alert system has between 3,000 and 5,000 followers, and that it is typically reserved for emergencies only.
“When we do send out an alert, we really want to get people’s attention,” Walter said.
The alerts contain information, and a way for people to respond. There’s the hope that by using the alert system the public might help police by providing a lead into an investigation, he said.
The last alert was in April, when followers were notified that Robert Worden, a missing person, was sadly found deceased in a brushy area near his home.
Bill Schauman is the founder of the Florida-based Public Alert System that provides the alert service to Oceanside Police, and said that the alert system is currently being upgraded to include a mobile application.
To sign up for Oceanside Police alerts, visit www.oceansidepolice.com, and click on Oceanside Alerts at the center of the page.
To follow police news in Escondido, visit www.twitter.com and search for Escondido_PD.

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