Social media is becoming an increasingly important part of Delta’s policing, and one that could see the DPD coming to the police board for help in the future.
“It used to be that people would walk into our community police stations and talk to the police officer there at the front counter,” Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord said at the April 11 police board meeting. “But there’s so many different ways of communicating now, and social media being one of them.”
According to Dubord, monitoring various social media platforms is now a key part of community engagement for the DPD. Facebook in particular was noted, with Dubord mentioning the Tsawwassen Loop page, as well as various others in Ladner and North Delta.
“More and more we find that this is the medium by which people come together and share information and connect with one another,” Delta Police public affairs coordinator Cris Leykauf said in an email to the North Delta Reporter. “For example, it’s not uncommon for residents to share on Facebook if they’ve suffered a break-in, or theft-from-auto. They like to alert others in the community, so that their neighbours can take precautions.”
Delta police monitor posts about crime in the neighbourhoods and interact with the community, which is what Dubord told the board the department needs to continuing to do.
“That’s the type of work we need to do now, is actually look at these pages, see what’s being talked about … and hopefully communicate within that to these people that communicate now through social media,” Dubord said.
When there is a heavy incident, this work can become quite intensive, as Leykauf knows.
“When there are public concerns about an event (such as a replica gun spotted at or a near a school), we spend additional time on Facebook groups and Twitter,” she noted in her email to the Reporter. This is “to ensure accurate information is going out, correct any misinformation, and occasionally answer questions, such as those that come in through Facebook Messenger.”
Interacting with social media is not only important when it comes to keeping the community informed, but also for the protecting the department’s brand.
“We’re very strong that we have a strong community-based plan and a community-based reputation for a police department within this community, and we want to maintain that,” Dubord told the board.
One example of this was on the Tsawwassen Loop page, where residents were talking about a series of break-and-enters, and the perception of the DPD because of it.
“We caught on and already there had been  comments on this particular topic,” Dubord said. “I was able to put out a message through our social media [account] to say that we’re actually seeing a decrease in break-and-enters in Tsawwassen during the course of 2017, and that we’re not experiencing the same level of disruption that they’re seeing.
“That immediately stopped that dialogue, and actually people were pulling comments … off there once we were able to get in there.”
Although this kind of interaction is important for the Delta Police Department, it takes a lot of resources to maintain. According to Leykauf, there are two people in the communications department who regularly post to social media and monitor those channels.
But there are also a number of sections that use social media accounts in relation to their jobs — the human resources department comes to mind, with its @joinDPD Twitter account, as does victim’s services with Caber’s Instagram and Facebook accounts. The traffic section also recently launched a Twitter account (@DPDTraffic) to help keep drivers informed of accidents and road safety best practices.
— Delta Police Hire (@joindpd) April 12, 2018
Commercial vehicle rollover in 3300Blk 64th St. Use alternate route. pic.twitter.com/6PGsfNg0XH
— Delta Police Traffic Unit (@DPDTraffic) April 23, 2018
Some officers also use Twitter when they are on the scene at traffic incidents or community events. Generally, these people receive in-house training and the DPD checks in regularly about their content.
“We’re going to be increasing our efforts to share more information with the community on social media,” Leykauf said. “And we think increasingly more people will be seeking to communicate with us in the same way.”
That means that in the future, the Delta Police Department may be coming forward to the police board, asking for help to support its growing social media needs.
“It’s important. We think it’s another way for us to engage in the community. We think it’s part of our community police model,” Dubord told the board. “And at one point in time, you may see us coming forward saying we need some sort of help here, because we can’t monitor all these channels and continue to be able to engage with the public with our existing complement.”