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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UAPD tweets for safety

The University of Arizona Police Department is using Twitter to keep the UA community safe.

Twitter is a social network that allows users to share information in “”tweets,”” messages limited to 140 characters.

UAPD’s Twitter account, “”UofAZPolice,”” was created in July of 2009 in the hopes of reaching more UA students, parents and faculty. School shootings were among the events which UAPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Juan Alvarez said were factors that led university police to create the Twitter account.

“”It came about because of a need to put information out to the public quicker and to reach a broader audience,”” said Alvarez. “”At first, we had the listserv UAlerts as one of the few ways to put information out to the UA’s community. It is distributed to members of the community who are registered in the listserv and who must have a ‘.edu’ account,”” Alvarez explained. “”But it was only reaching a small group.””

Nowadays, UAPD uses its Twitter account to disseminate Campus Watch Alerts, crime prevention tips and UAPD activities to its 353 followers. UAPD Chief of Police Anthony Daykin sends out Campus Watch Bulletins, but Alvarez, Officer Bethany Wilson and Officer Joe Bermudez monitor the Twitter account.

Before UAPD created a Twitter account, students relied on information regarding things like major power outages, thefts, blocked roads and other campus activities or emergencies via UAlert, a free service provided by UA’s Campus Emergency Response Team. Students who signed up for UAlert received text messages from the listserv to notify them when there was an emergency on campus of which they needed to be aware. Those students could then add one more person to the listserv, usually a parent, who would also receive the same text notifications.

Like Twitter, the service is free and requires that you register online. Unlike Twitter, it is limited to those affiliated with the UA community.

“”Twitter allows us to put information out there that many more people can have access to. If a parent who lives in California wants to get information on their son or daughter, they can follow UAPD’s Twitter account,”” Alvarez said. “”UAlerts just had a narrower scope than Twitter.””

Most of their followers are members of the UA community, and Alvarez said they have received positive feedback.

“”Last summer, we were having a lot of thefts from the library, so we linked a Campus Watch Bulletin to our Twitter to reach the community and also gave them tips on how to protect themselves,”” Alvarez said.

“”Even though Twitter is a social networking website, we don’t follow anybody because we use it most to push information out, not to get information,”” Alvarez said. “”And if people make use of the information, they’ll be able to protect themselves.””

Another UA department broadening UAPD’s Twitter publicity by “”re-tweeting”” or re-publishing messages is Parking and Transportation Services.

Known as “”UAPTS,”” Parking and Transportation Services joined Twitter more than a year ago. Bill Davidson, marketing specialist for Parking and Transportation Services, said he “”often re-tweets information from our car share program, bike share program, and of course UAPD.””

As for other social networking websites, Alvarez said there is a chance they might go onto Facebook in the near future.

“”As soon as we know about a threat, we need to alert the community. Our goal is to get more people to sign up for Twitter accounts,””

Alvarez said.

Recently, it’s allowed UA to reach an audience outside of the community. “”We just did an interview with Univision, which is a Spanish news channel, about our bike safety program. One of the ways they had heard about it was because of our Twitter.””

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