On Pinterest, a surveillance camera shot of a suspect in a business theft in Walton County can appear next to photos of delicious-looking dishes or stylish clothes.
Scrolling down a Facebook newsfeed, status updates from past classmates mingle with a photo and story of a police dog killed in the line of duty.
Social media has become a way for local law enforcement agencies not only to spread crime information, but to offer an inside look at their organizations.
"Social media has provided opportunities we never would have imagined five years ago," said Michele Nicholson, public information officer for the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
Posts on social media sites are seen by more than just the people who subscribe to the Sheriff's Office's account, said Deputy Rich Aloy, public information officer for the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office. If they like a post, followers can share it with their friends and possibly start a chain reaction. That lets the Sheriff's Office share its own message to an enormous audience.
The posts can give the public information on local arrests, tips to avoid becoming a scam or crime victim, and warnings about emergency situations.
"We're trying to empower (the public) by giving them this information," said Wendy Ammons, public information officer for the Walton County Sheriff's Office.
The Santa Rosa sheriff's application for cell phones allows users get alerts on emergencies, look at outstanding warrants and even submit crime tips and give feedback.
"It's another tool in your toolbox," Aloy said.
Social media also is a two-way street, Nicholson said. The Sheriff's Office can speak the people, but also receive compliments, complaints or even crimes tips from followers.
"They're paying attention," Nicholson said. "They see what the crimes issues are. They engage with law enforcement as a neighbor."
Organizations can tell their own stories through social media, Nicholson said. A photo of new deputies or a story describing deputy training may not make it into traditional media, but can still reach the public through a Facebook post or a YouTube video.
"We see (social media) as an extremely important tool for not only sharing important information with the public, but also information that may be of human interest that shows deputies are real people that day in and day out do good things that otherwise the general public wouldn't have been aware of," Nicholson said.
The Okaloosa Sheriff's Office uses YouTube to show people a day in the life of a deputy, unedited news conferences, award ceremonies and more, she said. That way the public gets a chance to see their Sheriff's Office in action.
Walton County's Pinterest account allows followers to pin photos of everything from fugitives to community events.
Still, social media has its drawbacks, Ammons said. The pages aren't manned all day, every day because of a lack of manpower, which can delay a response to someone's comments or questions.
Also, there is no substitute for in-person interactions, Ammons said.
"We don't want to separate ourselves by using social media to communicate," Ammons said. "We still need to go out to the people."
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