The Alhambra Police Department’s innovative and successful approach to engaging the community and elevating the level of community policing has resulted in two “first” accolades for the Alhambra Police Department – the first use of “Weibo” (China’s largest social media network) in the nation by a police department and the presentation of the first-ever “Excellence in Technology Innovation Award” given to the Alhambra Police Department by the California Police Chief’s Association and Motorola at the recent Annual Conference of the California Police Chief’s Association.
Through the leadership of Chief Mark Yokoyama and assistance of his staff, and most notably a community volunteer named Water Ma, who works as a Community Engagement Coordinator, the City of Alhambra developed the “Weibo” microblog site to enhance social media outreach to Alhambra’s Chinese community for the benefit of both residents and visitors. This notable achievement came to the attention of the California Police Chief’s Association & Motorola which provided the award in order to recognize municipal police agency’s “exceptional, innovative, and extraordinary achievement in law enforcement technology-based programs, efforts, or initiatives that benefit law enforcement as a profession.”
Providing community policing services to Alhambra’s Chinese community, many of whom have limited English proficiency, was difficult in that language served as a barrier to developing a positive collaborative partnership between the police department and the individuals and organizations being served— important criteria for solving public safety issues and developing community trust in the police department.
Some have said that Weibo is a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, with over half-a-million followers worldwide (and approximately one million in the U.S.). As the first U.S. law enforcement agency in the U.S. to use Weibo, within 24 hours of its December 2013 launch, more than 1,500 followers logged onto the site, and by the end of January 2014, more than 6,700 people had already started to follow the Alhambra Police Department on its Weibo microblog.
The amount of interaction between the Alhambra Police Department and local residents far exceeds that achieved in the past through traditional forms of outreach. The Department is benefitting from increased tips on crime issues and additional reports of victimization, and multiple questions are routinely asked concerning policies, procedures and other information about city issues and requests for resources. Many have commented since launching Weibo that they feel safer now that crime information is shared with the community in their own language.
Chief Yokoyama recently shared the good news – and the Department’s new trophy – at a meeting of the Alhambra City Council. The trophy is currently displayed in the lobby of the Alhambra Police Department headquarters at 211 S. First St.
Stop by, take a look, and share the pride!