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Monday, June 29, 2009

Move over Spidey, Aurora crimefighters use a different web

While I was “twittering” what I was having for breakfast one morning, I stumbled across police departments that use Twitter to keep their citizens updated on crime trends and other topics. I quickly went to my “Facebook” page to report my findings so all my friends would be privy to my discovery. I then found many police departments have Facebook home pages with bulletins of missing persons and wanted offenders. I immediately contacted all my “linkedin.com” associates to notify them of the social media wave, and finally “blogged” about it on my Google blogger domain site. An airplane was not readily available for me to attach a banner in hopes of spreading my message but the more I thought about it, the airplane would not be able to provide the instant gratification for which I was looking.

Surely I jest about the airplane but there is no joking about the rapid acceleration the information age has taken. Immediacy in news reporting is the new trend and we want to watch the story unfold in real time. Words like Twitter, Facebook, and other “social media” are rapidly replacing having to hover around the television to watch the news or wander to the end of the driveway to gather up the newspaper. Instead, my iphone alerts me to a new topic on Twitter and I find out within seconds the outcome of an Illinois Appellate Court case. Front page headlines are being replaced by updates on Twitter (known as “tweets”). In fact, “mainstream” media (TV, newspapers, radio stations, etc.,) were warned of this impending technology decades ago and chose to ignore it. By not jumping on the bandwagon, many outlets have gotten run over— hence the stories of their bankruptcies and other financial ills we often read or hear about, ironically enough, on social media sites! In one sense, I am saddened that newspapers are at risk of obsolescence. There is nothing like sipping coffee on a Sunday morning while passing around sections of the newspaper. In contrast, I am addicted to real-time news and information and am tethered to the electronic devices that provide it.

Policing is no different. We have all heard of the gaper’s delay that slows traffic whenever emergency lights illuminate a thoroughfare. Human beings have an inherent need to know about events happening around them - even when it has no direct effect on their lives (that’s a nice way of saying the people are nosey). It is that very reason social media so popular. Now when you see the red and blue lights, you can put it on Twitter to get the information out. (Of course, you should never “tweet” while driving!) This is precisely why police departments are dipping their toes in the social stream— because it solidifies partnerships with the citizens they serve. Conversely, the citizens not only receive information that is useful to them, but know the source is credible.

About a year ago, the Aurora Police Department joined Citizenobserver.com to give our residents the information they desire. The site allows Aurora Police to quickly disseminate news on specific criminal cases, wanted fugitives, crime trends, and other alerts to anyone that signs up to receive them. While those that have subscribed number well into the hundreds, we would like to see that number swell into the hundred-thousands. Quite frankly, we could not have reached 30 year crime lows without interaction from our community and in order to continue this success, we need our citizens to keep partnering with us. Sign-up takes about a minute. Just go to citizenobserver.com and it will guide you through. You can even get the messages sent to a cell phone or pager.

Resistance is futile because only the Internet can keep up with constant flow of information. Oh, and you can find out what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow by following me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/Lt_KZ.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Put end to things that go thump, day and night


Appeared in the Sun Times Beacon News on May 31, 2009
Lt. Kristen Ziman - Columnist

Put end to things that go thump, day and night

Mother Nature has been teasing us with sporadic warm days for two months, but soon a consistent warmth will settle in and summer will be here. The gentle sound of birds chirping will sing a duet with our alarm clocks as we wake to meet the world. We will dust off our bikes, get out the gardening tools and soak up every ray of sunshine, because we know the summer months pass too fast. We will rush home from work and fire up the grill. The sound of laughter will emit from the neighborhood children while the steaks sizzle and...THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!

The summer scene is thwarted by cars driving through neighborhoods with their stereos thumping so all the world can "share" in the melody of rap and hip-hop. Before you scold me for generalization of this particular genre, I will speak only to my experience in that I have never heard Kenny G or Garth Brooks past a certain decibel from a passing vehicle.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a lover of music and have even been known to bust a rhyme in sync with LL Cool J's "I Need Love" (don't test me -- I know every word). However, I enjoy my music in my own vehicle and even with the windows rolled down, you probably wouldn't hear Neil Diamond's "Forever in Blue Jeans" blasting from my stereo, because I keep the volume at a reasonable level (and because I am deeply, deeply embarrassed about loving Neil Diamond).

I would never dream of subjecting other drivers who are stopped helplessly beside me at a stoplight to my music. You may, however, have to endure the disturbing visual of me using my cell phone as a microphone, but rest assured, you won't hear a thing.

This is not about my questionable taste in music, but rather about the quality-of-life issues that test the patience of Aurora residents. When I speak with residents, I am often astounded their most pressing complaints are issues regarding the peacefulness of their neighborhoods.

Excessive noise from loud parties, car stereos and barking dogs top the list of complaints. Violent crime has been greatly reduced in recent years, so the communities have begun to recognize these quality-of-life issues and have turned to the police for help. No one wants to sit inside their house and feel it shake as a result of the bass coming from a passing vehicle, and no one wants to hear it three car lengths away, no matter what the genre.

If the noise problem is coming from a neighbor's house, I always suggest speaking with the neighbor before you involve the police. Sometimes honest concern and a respectful request will curb the problem. If it doesn't, call the police department's non-emergency number (630-859-1700 if you live in Aurora). Oftentimes, the stereo volume gets turned down with a little encouragement from your local law enforcement. Quite honestly, we would rather tackle the sub-woofers with the hip-hop blaring than deal with street violence, any day of the week.

If the police do get involved, thumpers beware. The price to pay for subjecting others to your music can be quite costly. If your noise can be heard from 75 feet away, you will most likely be issued a $75 ordinance ticket and your vehicle will be towed and impounded. It will cost you $250 to get the vehicle back, not including the ticket, tow or any storage costs. I'm no mathemagician, but those numbers add up to nearly $500.

Imagine all the Neil Diamond albums you could buy with that.

If you have any topics or questions that you would like Aurora police Lt. Kristen Ziman to address, e-mail them to Kristen Ziman@gmail.com.