The department intends to post monthly statistics on its Facebook page and website to inform community members and hold officers accountable.
WEST COLUMBIA, SC – The West Columbia Police Department plans to publish monthly crime statistics on social media as a way to build trust with the community.
West Columbia resident Cherry Horton Reidenbach said when she hears sirens in her community, she wants to know the reason.
“You hear all the sirens, but you just don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “It’s this little phone game where you whisper in someone’s ear…”
To ensure the information residents hear is accurate, the West Columbia Police Department will now release monthly crime statistics on Facebook.
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Investigations captain Matthew Deas said “it’s all about transparency”. He said releasing this information publicly was a step in building trust.
“Transparency is important to us because we need to have the trust of the community,” Deas said. “If we don’t have the trust of the community, then we’ve pretty much lost everything. We have to have legitimacy with the community.”
West Columbia’s Eighth District Councilman David Moye said he thought it was a good move for the community.
“Over time, this shows us that transparency almost always yields the best results,” he said.
Michelle Swancey has lived in West Columbia for 53 years. During that time, she said she saw many changes, especially in crime rates.
“We appreciate the small town we had, but we know it’s growing,” she said. “A lot of people move here. It’s a great place. But it comes with a lot of crime.”
To deal with this crime, Swancey said she looks forward to learning more about how officers patrol. Being able to see statistics on Facebook, she says, gives her peace of mind.
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“I think if you’re here to make our town, our city, our state – whatever you are – a better place, you need to let us know what you’re doing. We need to know what’s going on behind the doors, ” she says. “And, so far, I’m feeling pretty good with the stats. Seeing those things actually helps us know how we’re really doing.”
That’s what Deas hopes.
“We can take a look at the numbers and we can figure out if what we’re doing is working,” he said. “And if not, we can retool and try something else.”
Getting this information not only helps residents know what officers are up to, but also educates them about the community they live in.
Reverend Kenneth Taylor has been in the community for 15 years and said there was a “high level of crime in the community” which has increased over the years.
“Citizens always complained that they just weren’t aware of what the police were doing,” Taylor said. “And so it helps with transparency, it helps them be clear about what’s going on in our community, and it allows our community to be more responsive to the type of activities that are going on.”
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Statistics will be posted on the ministry’s Facebook page each month. For these statistics to be accurate, they must be reported.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing to be able to see the stats; however, I doubt all the stats are correct,” Reidenbach said.
This is something the department recognizes.
“We need your help to report it and forward it to the police department,” Green said.
Deas said if you want to report a crime anonymously, you can call Midlands CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.