The Dartmouth Police Department’s social media presence rises above the rest with engaging posts, original videos and a charming personality that welcomes visitors and holds the haters at bay.
It's all thanks to Kyle Costa, a detective at this local police station in Massachusetts who fell into the role of being a social media community manager.
Four years ago, he noticed that other local police departments were getting more involved on social media. So he took his department’s digital strategy into his own hands and decided to think outside the box when it came to content.
Costa didn’t want his department’s Facebook page to be boring, so he researched successful social media accounts from other departments to see how they succeeded. What he found was that he should give his posts personality and focus on creating content that encourages conversation.
“The focus that I had right from the get-go was to keep it entertaining, engaging and educational for everybody.”
The Facebook page for the Dartmouth Police Department doesn’t simply post press releases, crime logs and memes. Costa is actively writing and creating media content while actually responding to fans in the comments.
The reaction so far has been better than Costa could have ever predicted. Many of their posts have gone viral nationally, and people who aren’t even in Dartmouth follow the page for a daily dose of Costa’s sarcastic wit.
Most of the crime in Dartmouth involves theft of some sort, and Costa said Facebook is the perfect tool to crowd source crime solving. His department will post footage or photos from incidents and ask the public for help, sometimes with a dash of Costa’s special brand of humor.
For example, the department recently made national news after posting a tongue-in-cheek letter to three shoplifters asking them to turn themselves in. The post, lovingly signed, “The Popo,” told the girls to “do the right thing and call.”
Costa said waves of tips came into their inbox after that post, which is common in his blossoming online community. He said there is almost a 100 percent return rate of property when they share the information online.
“The crimes that we solved that otherwise would have gone unsolved or taken months to solve, it has been absolutely amazing.”
While many of the comments and messages he receives are positive, Costa is not afraid to fire back at the occasional internet troll.
“I like to refer to them as the haters,” he said. “For the most part we ignore them, but now and then I can be a little bit snarky with them. Nothing that crosses the line, but nobody is to say that just because we are a police department we should allow people to take cheap shots at us. We have voices, and on occasion they should be heard from a professional standpoint.”
With their social media strategy taking off, Costa soon had the idea to produce short, humorous videos to get important public safety information out to the community. He teamed up with the local community television station to create a police-themed parody of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which was followed by a hilarious PSA addressing the “killer clown” trend.
The videos racked up thousands of views across the web, which to Costa means more people taking in the informational messages they tuck between the comedy.
Costa said he draws inspiration from his co-workers and the online community to come up with the next fun post or media project. He was shooting to get 5,000 followers on Facebook, but now has a collective of 15,000 fans.
Dartmouth police Capt. Mark Zielinski said he loves what Costa is doing and that people in the community always mention how great his social media work is for the community.
“I’m glad it is taking off like it did and giving us such a positive outlook. It is great for the department and I think it is wonderful,” Zielinski said.
In the end, the sense of community translates into better relations between police officers and the public.
“Of course we are going to have a little bit of fun. It humanizes us,” Costa said. “For too many years the idea of police officers in general is ‘us against them,’ but in Dartmouth we are taking the position that it is all of us and we can help each other.”