Police Cultivate Campus Relations on Reddit

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The Georgia Tech Police Department doesn’t have many people wandering into its Hemphill Avenue headquarters to profess their love for the police force. But on Reddit, this has become fairly common.

About a year ago, GTPD created a profile and began posting in the Georgia Tech subreddit. Since then, it has developed a presence that’s been both useful in policing and lauded by many of the more than 4,500 users.

“Is it okay to say that I love you guys?” one user commented to a post by GTPD earlier this month.

Crime Prevention Officer Preston Moss, the primary voice behind the GTPD Reddit account, said the forum provides an opportunity for more lighthearted communication with students.

“We’re much more whimsical on Reddit,” he said. “We don’t want to be lecturing people there.”

Though he tries not to “spam,” Moss sometimes posts about upcoming GTPD events. Earlier this month, he posted that October is Crime Prevention Month, with a simple reminder about the “See Something? Say Something?” motto the department has adopted from the Department of Homeland Security. In the spring, he posted a brief note that officers would be tabling outside Clough Commons during final exams, with treats as well as safety tips for those studying late at night. One commenter took the opportunity to give a commendation.

“I have so much respect for the GTPD,” the user said. “You are always looking out for us. I know it’s your job, but your incredible commitment to the task is enormously commendable.”

A few officers and a student assistant help monitor the account, with Moss being the primary poster. He’s found that people speak more directly when they have anonymity, creating a sort of pressure relief valve for campus and providing an opportunity for police to chime in and provide additional information when possible.

Lately, while doing in-person presentations, Moss has noticed students asking questions based on Reddit threads. Students often will post descriptions of situations playing out on campus, asking others for more information.

Most posts are related to general questions or issues, but more serious issues bubble up as well. In a situation where a student was posting about potentially harming himself, Moss reached out through a private message, to which the student responded, enabling Moss to refer him to campus resources where he could get help.

In general, the Reddit community has been a goldmine of information for GTPD about the goings-on around campus.

“It helps us find out about things we otherwise may not see,” Moss said. Though many Reddit users thrive on anonymity, Moss doesn’t mind it being known that he’s the one at the keyboard; he likes students to have an idea of who they’re talking to.

The Crime Prevention unit oversees all of GTPD’s social media accounts and shares relevant information with the rest of the department. The training unit keeps in close contact for access to knowledge that could be beneficial in training new officers. They consider Reddit a way to read the “pulse” of campus.



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    Kristen Bailey
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