It started with a simple act of vandalism, a little bit of broken glass. Vandals in Clever brought about a message from Police Chief Jeff Lofton that resonated with our staff here at the Headliner News.
“We have policy and protocol on how to report criminal activity. Just because it’s posted on Facebook does not mean you have made a police report,” Lofton said. “Some people, in general, may not know that.”
Chief Lofton and the Clever police are fighting a smaller-scale version of a very important battle we are fighting every day in our never-ending quest for information. For many users, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram function as one-way shout boxes to share messages with the rest of the world. However, for many businesses, clubs and civic organizations, social media sites function as tools by which to spread the word of important announcements and events. The problem is that they can’t always control who is on the receiving end of those messages.
At a board of aldermen meeting May 28, a Clever resident asked Lofton about an investigation into some additional vandalism that had occurred at a church in Clever. A van belonging to the church had reportedly been vandalized with some windows smashed. The problem for the police is that the church shared photos of the alleged vandalism on social media websites, but did not contact Clever police.
“That was not reported,” Lofton said. “I was not aware of that.”
If anyone in Clever witnesses a crime, has their property stolen, or finds a window broken, they need to call the police. Making a Facebook post won’t cut it.
“You’ve got to call us. If we’re not in the office, call (Christian County) dispatch, they’ll get us. If you see us out somewhere—send me an email. I have several ways to get ahold of me on social media. You can send a Facebook message,” Lofton said. “There are a lot of different ways to do that.”
There are more than 2,400 people in Clever, and Chief Lofton is probably not Facebook friends with all of them. Likewise, there are more than 80,000 people in Christian County, and sadly, our staff is not Facebook friends with all of them.
The Clever Police Department recently reconstructed part of its website to allow residents to contact the police—anonymously if you wish—or to send a crime tip.
“Find somebody with a badge or call somebody with a badge, and we can go forward,” Lofton said.
The same principal applies to us here at your local newspaper. We’re always happy to share what your group is doing, but we can’t help you if we don’t know about your story, your event or your broken window.
We’re not ignoring the fact that Facebook has gained top of mind awareness in the age of social media. When we see something awesome, cool or compelling happen, our first instinct is to pull out our cell phones and take some pictures. For most people, their first thought is something like, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to share this on Facebook.”
The days of, “Oh, man, I’ve got to send this to the newspaper,” are fading quickly, but we sure hope they aren’t gone altogether. Keep sharing your awesomeness on social media, but help us help you by notifying our office by email or by phone. We want to tell your stories, but we can’t do that if we don’t know about them.
Back on Facebook, Clever police investigated a case of vandalism at the Clever City Park, where Chief Lofton said he believes more than one person was involved in vandalizing a basketball goal.
“This is an open investigation and I can’t talk about it,” Lofton said on May 28. “Resolution is near.”
By May 30, Clever police informed their Facebook followers that the basketball goal case was solved.
“The city park will soon be fully functional again with a replacement basketball goal provided by multiple suspects in the property damage which occurred (May 11),” the post reads. “We hope the city park remains a destination for fun, exercise and enjoyment, free from destructive activity.”
The goal that was vandalized was originally donated to the city of Clever by a church.
“They’ve turned out to be expensive to replace,” Lofton said.
The parties responsible for damaging the goal stand to be out more than $500 in restitution to have it replaced.