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Police jump into social media

New program would instantly alert citizens to emergency situations.

February 18, 2012|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

This week, the Burbank Police Department took its online profile to a whole new level.

With a new direct messaging system, the public now will be able to get up-to-the-moment public safety information via email, text message — or even a Tweet.

A message might warn commuters to stay away from a traffic accident, or alert the public that police are searching for a dangerous suspect.

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Burbank’s first venture into the world of social media comes through Nixle Connect, and on Friday, Burbank police’s Twitter account, @BurbankPD, was activated.

“There’s no reason not to get into the social media arena to better communicate with citizens and business owners, or anyone who comes into the city of Burbank,” Police Sgt. Darin Ryburn said.

Nixle is a communication system used by more than 4,600 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. It sends emails or text messages to subscribers at no cost to the subscriber or the agency.

To inform residents of the new service, notices will appear in utility bills and on Burbank’s Channel 6. Other channels, including the chamber of commerce, civic organizations and the Burbank Unified School District, also will be used, Ryburn said.

Police hope to work with Burbank Unified officials to use the Nixle system for students and parents in the case of an emergency, Ryburn said.

The move comes after police began posting arrest logs on the department’s website in November.

Unlike the third-party platform www.crimemapping.com, to which Burbank provides information for email alerts on various crimes, Nixle messages are created and sent by police.

Ryburn, along with Lt. John Dilibert and other officers in the Community Outreach and Professional Standards Bureau, or COPS, will be preparing and sending the Nixle messages.

A new, stand-alone website for police could be live by the summer, Ryburn said. Requests for proposals are due in March.

“Nixle is something I wanted to do,” Ryburn said. “The only drawback is manpower. The value of the information is that it be put in. We’re doing it in increments.

Sgt. Robert Quesada, a former public information officer for the department now assigned to air support, said discussions started last summer about enhancing the website and use of social media.

“In this day and age, if we’re a modern department with all kinds of good equipment but we can’t find a form online, that means the website is prehistoric,” Quesada said.

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