Seattle Police have a new weapon in the battle against car theft: Twitter, ironically one of the many forms of social media that’s not supposed to be used while driving. Nonetheless the SPD is now extending the long arm of the law to the Internet in hopes Twitter followers throughout the city will read reports of stolen cars and notify the authorities if they spot a missing vehicle. From the New York Times:
Car thefts are on the rise in Seattle — nearly 10 a day, and up from 8.46 a day — and the Seattle Police Department is turning to social media to help nab the criminals and recover the stolen cars.
In a blog post last week, the department announced a plan to send Twitter messages with the details of cars that had been reported as stolen:
When a car is reported stolen in Seattle, employees in the Seattle Police 911 Center will tweet the color, year, make, model, body style and license plate of the stolen car. Twitter followers who spot a car that has been tweeted as stolen on “Get your car back” should call 911.
The police emphasized that citizens should not confront the occupants of the car.
“I believe that this program will integrate seamlessly into our strategy to prevent and reduce auto theft in Seattle,” said Police Chief John Diaz. “It will also serve to increase public awareness on the subject.”
This measure reminds me of a story I wrote for The Times two years ago, when another, more primitive form of social media — online forums — was instrumental in recovering a rare 1991 Nissan Skyline GT-R in Alberta, Canada.
In that case, Shaun Ironside reported the car stolen from his dealership on an enthusiasts’ forum. Less than 24 hours later, the car was found, and within 48 hours the police had a suspect in custody.