Social media is a great way to communicate. However, when it comes to Connecticut towns, are Facebook pages becoming a virtual neighborhood watch?
If you do a quick search online, you can find various town Facebook groups run by everyday people in Connecticut.
“It just is a nice way to connect everybody,” said Patti Albee.
Albee is a full time mom of four in West Hartford and has been using social media to connect people in her town for years.
“It started very small and quiet for a while and then has kind of blossomed,” said Albee.
Albee started the Facebook page “Neighbors and Friends of West Hartford” in 2012. Now there are around 14,000 members contributing local information, such as business recommendations, missing animals, kid’s achievements, community events and even breaking news.
“We get a lot of posts a day. For the most part, 90% of them are valid. They are good posts. They are people looking for things, information and things like that. We do get the ones that you know are misinformation, are looking to just kind of stir the pot and see what trouble they can cause, but for the most part, people are honestly looking just to help,” said Albee.
Good or bad, the posts are catching on. In Ledyard, Corey Watford manages a Facebook page called “HomeBrewTVNews,” in his spare time.
“I like to inform people, like right when the situation is happening, not hours after,” said Watford.
He, along with people in the area post regional events, missing animals and even unconfirmed emergency scanner traffic. These page administrators don’t make any money doing this, they simply view it as a way to keep their communities informed.
“I have had multiple comments over the past week saying, every morning before I go to work, I check HomeBrewTVNews,” said Watford. “I appreciate that. It feels good to me that people are getting informed.”
Local police keep an eye on the pages, too, and said these pages are a good tool for the communities. However, police warn people to take the instant information with a grain of salt.
“It's a wonderful tool for them to be able to use that. As a police department, some of the challenges we have had with it have been when we get phone calls from people saying I read this on this particular website, is this true? Is it not true?” said Cpt. Mike Perruccio with the West Hartford Police Department.
Police said the information is not always accurate. If people do know about a crime, they should always call police first, before posting online. Police urge people to keep safety in mind when having conversations with strangers online.
“There is nothing that important that you need to go after somebody in real life and threaten them,” said Albee.
Albee said, rarely, threats on her page have happened in the past. On most of the town pages, you have to ask to become a member and the administrators monitor any negative comments or communications. Albee said her page has a policy that if any unwanted communication occurs, then those people will be removed from the page.
Facebook is doing its part to help combat keyboard warriors, too. Facebook recently formed an admin group, giving advice to page administrators on how to manage their groups safely. Police say the more communication, the better.
“Whatever the medium is, I think it's important we have more communication because, I think we really do find, at the end of the day, most of us are more alike than different,” said Perruccio.
In the end, communication is key even in a virtual neighborhood watch.
“It's a way to gather information. It's one more way. Maybe it is the way, you know, you take all those little pieces and it becomes the whole puzzle,” said Albee.