Ridge Meadows RCMP goes digital first with happier police news

Police don’t want to desensitize public with endless items about shed breakins

If you haven’t noticed, the semi-weekly police report has gone missing as the digital wave sweeps across everything in its path.

Regular updates of police blotter news, items about Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents driving dangerously or drunk or breaking into someone’s home, are no longer released to media.

Instead, Ridge Meadows RCMP are sending out news of a different type and using social media to do it.

“Our police blotter is now also known as FaceBook,” Supt. Dave Walsh said Monday.

With about 30 to 40 per cent of the population now using social media as their main source of communication, “the onus is on us … to stay ahead of the curve and communicate with the public we serve as best we can.”

He made the decision to stop providing the police blotter material about six months ago and said Maple Ridge council had no role in the decision.

“It seems to be working fairly well for us.

“It seems to be the wave of the future.”

RCMP are also using Twitter (@RidgeRCMP), but the 140-character limit means FaceBook is the preferred venue. Once updates are posted there, the Ridge Meadows RCMP website is updated, as well.

Print media still has a role, but social media will be used for daily communication, he explained.

Instead of a regular diet of police news about petty crime, “I think the public is better served in having more-significant news stories which have a bigger impact in the community with a better opportunity for the public to provide information to us,” Walsh said.

“You don’t want to saturate or desensitize the public.”

So far, readers aren’t missing the juicy crime tidbits.

Instead, people seem to responding to the RCMP FaceBook content and the message that’s getting out there, he added.

“It’s a work in progress. It’s a new technology. If there’s an outcry for more information of lesser crimes, then we’ll certainly respond to that,” Walsh said.

The difference is clear during a quick review of the page. There is one item about possession of porn charges being laid recently against two Maple Ridge men.

But most of the Ridge Meadows RCMP’s FaceBook presence is lighter fare.

Starting from Aug. 14, there is a note that advertises Heroes Day in Memorial Peace Park, an event that allowed police, firefighters and search and rescue to meet the public.

There’s also a photo of a motorcycle cop, another of a dog squad officer with his dog, Typhoon. There’s a also one of a constable leading a lost donkey back to its owners.

Included, as well, is a warning about cougars, another that shows a thank-you card from two young girls who got lost, and yet another notice telling people to make sure they encrypt their cloud storage files.

Walsh said the Ridge Meadows RCMP FaceBook page is serving as a pilot for other detachments, although Surrey RCMP also has a FaceBook page.

Vancouver and Victoria police “are way ahead of the curve. They’ve been doing this for quite a while.”

He added that sometimes people can be desensitized to constant stream of police news, the value of which can be questioned, while more significant items that get posted will grab more public attention.

“Everything that does go in there, I believe will have greater value.”

The new approach allows the RCMP’s media strategist Dan Herbranson to update the Ridge Meadows RCMP FaceBook page immediately from the scene of major events.