(TNS) -- When a home invasion in Ilion turned into a fatal shooting on Dec. 7, Ilion police made sure the public knew of the situation.
Their prime source of communication? Social media.
"Ilion police are investigating an incident that occurred on Richfield Street. The area is currently shut down. Please use an alternative route," the police tweet read.
The department has been using Twitter since Nov. 1, when the MobilePatrol app went into use by the department. The officers who handle the department's social media say they already have noticed positive effects from the additional social media boost.
"We have our Facebook and Twitter connected with our MobilePatrol app, which means that whenever we post on Facebook, Twitter will just grab it," Officer John Brewer said. "We're trying to hit three social media sites at once."
Another perk from having the MobilePatrol app is that civilians can anonymously post tips or report neighborhood disputes and upload photos for law enforcement to follow up with.
"It actually helps," Brewer said. "The little time that we've had it (MobilePatrol) since the beginning of November, we've had a lot of success with it. It's kind of streamlining things," Brewer said. "It gives us leads to go on. We've also had community tips."
Ilion Police Chief Timothy Parisi said some of the officers have been pushing for a bigger use of social media for some time now.
"Facebook is much more followed in this area than Twitter," he said. "We really have to have the personnel to monitor it. We now have some people who were interested in doing it and monitoring it. It's great for informational purposes to say what's going on. I'm happy and I'm actually pleased with what they've done with the pages so far."
Law enforcement agencies using social media burgeoned in the early 2010s. A survey from 2010 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police reported more than 81 percent of agencies contacted already used social media. Out of that number, 65 percent first began using it in either 2009 or 2010.
The latest report by the IACP reported that more than 96 percent of acencies surveyed are currently using social media, with 94 percent of those surveyed using Facebook and 71 percent using Twitter.
The first local police agency to create a Facebook account was Utica police in 2010. Utica Police Lt. Bryan Coromato said that using social media allows law enforcement to reach out in a more personal way to the community.
"It helps them see a different side of us. It allows the public to see our career," he said.
There is a direct correlation between posting suspect or case information on social media and arrests.
"We've had numerous cases solved over the years using social media," Coromato said.
Other departments in the area, such as the Oneida County Sheriff's Office and the Herkimer County Sheriff's Office have been using MobilePatrol, which enables agencies to manage their social media platforms in one place.
Social media not only helps police solve current crimes, but also could help in cases that are years or decades old.
The New York State Police in May started a new initiative hoping the public could lend a hand via social media.
The effort, called Cold Case Tuesdays, features one unsolved case a week from different troops across the state, said spokeswoman Kristin Lowman.
"Social media can assist our members in the cases they are investigating by generating leads and public interest," Lowman wrote in an email in May. "These campaigns are a way for the public to help police in ongoing investigations - providing information they may have about a case - and it also is a way to bring some of these cases, some decades old, back to the forefront, keeping them fresh in people's minds."
Information on the effectiveness of the cold case program wasn't immediately available, but in 2016 in general, state police made arrests in 15 cases with information generated through social media posts, State Police Spokesman Beau Duffy said.
In Ilion, Brewer said what benefits the department from additional media platforms is that it widens the contact police can maintain with individuals that they serve.
"I think that, that helps people who wouldn't otherwise be in contact with police," he said.
©2017 Observer-Dispatch, Utica, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.