WM Police looking to DIVRT crime

New outreach program uses social media connect with community

By Ralph Hardin ralphhardin@gmail.com

West Memphis Police Chief Donald Oakes announced Monday that the West Memphis Police Department has just launched a new outreach program that utilizes all of the resources and community connectivity of social media. Known as DIVRT (Digital Imaging and Video Recovery Team), the new technologically-minded video recovery and dissemination strategy was recently developed and pilot tested by the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department. The program is an attempt to find a better way to disseminate information about crimes to the public and perhaps more importantly, to ask for the public’s help in solving them. “This program has been very successful in other cities where it has been used,” said Oakes. “And I am very confident that we will see similar results.” The DIVRT strategy uses video footage obtained from the crime scene locations and the surrounding area to compose short “crime commercials,” which are then broadcast on the police department’s YouTube and Facebook sites. The commercials put out information about the crime that is being investigated as well as video and/or still photographs to assist with the identification of suspects in the crime. “By using the social media platforms we are able to reach a different audience than traditional media outlets are able to do,” explained West Memphis Police Captain Joe Baker. “The audience we are trying to reach with this program may not watch traditional news broadcasts on television and might not subscribe to local newspapers, but are very active on social media, so that is where we have to reach them. Baker said the crime commercials are generally less than two minutes in duration so that the viewer only needs a short amount of time to gather essential information about the incident. West Memphis Police Department Captains Robert Langston and Joe Baker attended the DIVRT training in Philadelphia in early December as part of the Federal Department of Justice’s VRN (Violence Reduction Network) Program, a national initiative that the West Memphis Police Department has been participating in since October “They were so impressed with what they learned that upon their return they immediately began using the this crime reduction program,” said Oakes. “So far we have released two videos on our Facebook page, and have had numerous tips called in after each release,” said Baker. “We are excited about this program and believe it will be extremely helpful in solving cases in the City of West Memphis.” Anyone interested in the DIVRT program can go to the West Memphis Police Department’s Facebook page or the WMPD YouTube channel to view the commercials. If they click “like” or follow the pages, they should get updates automatically anytime they are posted. Chief Oakes is asking as many people as possible to view these pages and the information that is being put out in order to help investigators successfully work these cases. “Often, the Police cannot solve these crimes alone,” he said. “It requires help from the community, and the more information we are able to give to the community the better chance we have of getting that help.”

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