The police blotter in Seattle was brought into the social media age last week. In a service the city calls Tweets-by-Beat, 51 Twitter accounts – one for each of Seattle's 51 police beats – report crimes around the city in near real time.
Crimes are tweeted with a one-hour delay to deter people from attempting to visit crime scenes and gawk. Certain crimes, like rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence, are excluded from the service because bringing greater attention to such crimes could discourage victims from reporting them.
Following a series of high-profile cases involving police and minorities, the city launched a package of 20 initiatives last March intended to overhaul police operations. Tweets-by-Beat is No. 17, intended to “provide better information to the public.”
“This is trailblazing stuff,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, to The New York Times. “It shows a willingness I haven’t seen in large supply to really affirmatively make available, warts and all, a clear picture to people of what’s going on.”