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How people are being alerted to developing crimes through social media

Posted at 12:02 AM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 09:24:56-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Since last Friday, WRTV has talked to FedEx employees and loved ones of victims who say they first found out something was wrong at the FedEx Ground Facility from social media and neighborhood safety apps. Tina Marie Graham, who leads the Southwest Association of Neighbors in Indianapolis, says sharing information through social media was important for her and those in her neighborhood.

"I have lot of friends and relatives that work at FedEx and in our neighborhood. FedEx is one of the major employers because we're so close," Graham said. "I think a lot of us stayed up most of the night, chatting back and forth, with any news we could get our hands on. It did calm some nerves to know that people were able to contact their loved ones."

While providing updates to her friends and neighbors, Graham faced the same challenges WRTV and all new outlets had to deal with: trying to share accurate information as quickly as possible while investigators worked to make sense of what was going on. Graham knows some people might have already made assumptions about what had happened based off comments on apps like Citizen which sends out safety alerts based on people's particular area. Citizen has people around the clock listening to police scanners and pushing out the alerts. They also confirm information with police.

"We do use the Citizen app to be able to find out what's going on in the area. It's not always the best resource because you don't always get the full picture or the full story," Graham said.

We reached out to Citizen for a comment and they gave us the statement below concerning their policies on getting information out to the community.

"We are devastated by the senseless loss of life after the mass shooting at the FedEx facility last week. We take extremely seriously our responsibility to keep our users safe and informed; safety is always our top priority. Citizen has a team of analysts reviewing publicly available information from first responder agencies. These analysts – many of whom have media and public safety backgrounds – take great care to appropriately filter and disseminate information that is a legitimate safety concern. We then send the safety alerts based on the location of the user’s phone, empowering the public with the knowledge required to make informed decisions."

Citizen did note they encourage their users to offer helpful and accurate comments but concede there are always going to be trolls. They work quickly to delete misleading comments.

No matter what information Graham comes across, as a Crime Watch Captain for her community, she tries her best to get information she sees online confirmed directly from police. Only then can you know the information is the most accurate especially during tough and chaotic situations like last week's mass shooting

"As soon as we see something that needs to be addressed, we check into all the facts and make sure things are correct and if they're not, we will correct them," Graham said.