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Police step up social media presence in South Florida

Department promotes posts to certain age groups, ZIP codes

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PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – South Florida police departments are stepping up their social media presence.

Miami-Dade police, for example, has more than 12,000 followers on Twitter.

The Broward Sheriff's Office has more than 11,000 followers.

Departments have said they're using social media as a tool to fight crime and keep people safe at home.

Lynne Martzall, head of Coral Springs police social media outreach, said the push to connect with people is working.

"It is the most effective way we can communicate with our public," she said. "Within minutes, we can get out our crime prevention messages to thousands. We do have more followers on our Facebook page. On average, we reach 4 million people each month."

One example: Thousands of people saw a post several weeks ago of a missing autistic teenager. After tips came in from the public, he was located safely.

The department also pays to promote its posts, which is in its budget, and uses technology to populate their messages into the newsfeeds of certain age groups and ZIP codes.

"Just like businesses target their consumers, we're able to target our residents and business owners by age (and) location," Martzall said.

Martzall said if there are burglaries in certain neighborhoods, she wants to make sure surrounding areas are alerted in social media posts as well.

Most police departments, however, do not monitor social media around the clock. If someone has an urgent tip on a pending case, it is best to call. In the event of an emergency, dial 911.

Follow Janine Stanwood on Twitter @JanineStanwood

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