January 2, 2013 By Noelle Knell
"Social media is the most recent evolution in communication technology. I don’t think there’s a choice as to whether or not law enforcement uses social media."
So says law enforcement consultant Lauri Stevens in an interview with Government Technology. Stevens, founder of Massachusetts-based LAwS Communications, works with police departments all over the United States and Canada, and feels that while many agencies are getting social media right, there is ample opportunity to improve.
Those with the most successful implementations, according to Stevens, understand that social media can effectively engage citizens as active partners in keeping communities safe. And in a major incident involving the police, an established following on social media can help keep rumors at bay and contribute to a more positive outcome.
A recent international study (PDF) by technology consulting firm Accenture found that 88 percent of citizens want to help the police fight crime. Perhaps more telling, however, is the fact that 84 percent of respondents “feel only minimally informed of local police activities.”
So how can social media help bridge this gap?
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.