Yahoo! Inadvertently Aids MPD In Efforts to Reach Out

District residents tip MPD through Web groups.

Yahoo!Groups have been used by different people from different walks of life to bring together people with shared interests. However, the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) groups are not for leisure.

“The listserv was first started as part of our community outreach efforts and has grown since its inception,” said David K. Kamperin, 1st police district commander. MPD Yahoo!Groups were created over three years ago by Yvonne Smith, a civilian employee within the department. She started with a substation in the 3rd police district and then expanded to the other police districts.

Now, they are required by Police Chief Cathy Lanier, according to Lieutenant Keith DeVille of the 4th police district.

Kamperin said the MPD Yahoo!Groups differ from outside blogs about various communities because they are monitored by MPD officials. Not to mention, the regular interaction from officials in MPD and various members of the local government and the education system.

“The listserv is generally used as an exchange of information,” Kamperin said. “Although most of the time it’s law enforcement related, sometimes it involves multiple agencies or just neighbors exchanging general information.”

Kamperin said the groups are sometimes used to give updates about suspects or crime patterns. They also serve as tip lines.

“People are uncomfortable with calling up,” DeVille said of some citizens. He added that several crimes have been solved using the groups.

When DeVille worked in the 6th police district, he said citizens would offer names of criminals, such as robbers. He can’t recall this happening in the 4th police district as of yet.

Typical posts includes information about places and homes to watch for drug activity. Deville said police officers once broke up a brothel based on a Yahoo!Group user’s tip.

DeVille said it isn’t uncommon for users to inquire about gunshots they heard or police tape they saw in their neighborhood.

Users also use the groups as an opportunity to critique MPD’s work ethic. DeVille said people will write-in on the Web site about areas that need more patrolling or “checking.”

An interest citizen accesses the page through Yahoo’s main page and submits basic information about him or herself, including why he or she wants access to the group.

Once this information is submitted, one of the site’s administrators will approve the request for membership, usually in a matter of minutes, and the new member will receive confirmation through the e-mail address he or she provided on the electronic application.

From that point, the member has access to all of the site’s features.

“It allows citizens to voice concerns,” Deville said.

Kamperin said the groups are an instrument of quick information dissemination, but that they “should not be used as a replacement for our PSA (Patrol Service Area) Community meetings.”

Each district has its own time and date for monthly meetings, information which can be retrieved from MPD’s Web site.