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Tech-savvy Seattle weighs in on Twitter storm by @SeattlePD

July 29, 2011 |  1:26 pm

SPD_Logo_for_Twitter On Tuesday, a storm of tweets from the Seattle Police Department at first alarmed, and then annoyed, some tech-savvy citizens of that city.

Instead of a crime spree or computer malfunction, the Seattle police had embarked on a 12-hour experiment tweeting almost all emergency calls received to show folks what a day in the life of the department was like.

What followed were 140-character-or-less mini-dramas unfolding throughout the city at an average of 40 tweets per hour. By experiment's end, there were 478 tweets in total. 

There was the vague ("Mischief in the 1500 block of 3 Ave"), the mundane ("Parking complaint in the 4900 block of Dayton Ave N"), the sad ("Hit & run accident in the 10 block W Mc Graw St").

And then the weird, including a "suspicious person armed with sword" roaming the streets (what big city doesn't have its sword toters?).

The department omitted domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse calls, deeming them too sensitive.

As @SeattlePD morphed temporarily into a virtual police scanner, some citizens complained about inane tweets clogging up their accounts.

"I had to mute the @SeattlePD," wrote one follower. "I don't care about mental person panhandling too aggressive while jaywalking. Bad use of twitter!"

Others were more complimentary. "cool experiment!" one said. Another: "I wish my little Swedish town did this."

Police spokesman Sean Whitcomb told the Seattle Times that the department was trying to find new avenues to engage the public.

"If we are going out to a scene we will tweet that," he said. "If someone is a SPD Twitter follower, he's welcome to get out of his house and hear what we're telling the news."

And this is just the beginning. The Seattle police have plans in the works for a "tweet-along," according to the Seattle Times, in which Twitter followers will ride virtual shot-gun with an officer, sending Twitter updates on every call he or she responds to.

"This is another way we can communicate," Whitcomb said.

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-- Shan Li

 Photo: The Seattle Police Department logo for Twitter. Credit: @SeattlePD

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