Being accessible to the University of New Mexico has always been a goal for UNM’s Police Department, but now the department wants to take it one step further and connect with college students through social media.
Last month UNMPD launched a new initiative and hashtag called #UNMStrongerTogether. This initiative also kicked off the department’s new Twitter and Instagram social media accounts. The hashtag aims to make UNMPD more accessible to the University community and increase awareness of the importance of community policing.
“The more person-to-person interaction we get the better, because we know there are times when we’re so busy we can’t do those types of interactions and through social media we’ll be able to maintain that contact with our community,” said UNMPD Officer Patricia Young.
Last semester, UNMPD visited select residence halls to talk with residence advisors and residents about what safety concerns residents had about living on campus. Young said one of the things UNMPD took away from those visits was that students wanted more accessibility to the department on social media.
“We have been getting the same message over and over, that we need to get on social media,” Young said. “If we want to communicate with the younger generation we have to be on social media.”
UNMPD received help from University Communication and Marketing (UCAM) over the summer in setting up social media accounts and promoting the #UNMStrongerTogether initiative. UCAM also released a promotional and educational video that is part of the new initiative.
In addition to that initiative, Officer Young created a Safety Topic of the Month Page (STOMP) for the UNMPD website — this month’s topic is theft prevention.
“We came up with the slogan, ‘There’s only glass between us, for auto burglaries.’ In that message, people can remember that when they leave their car and look back and see something they left in their car that might be valuable to them,” Young said. “So we’re hoping to create some good habits in people by sharing these slogans and safety tips.”
Rachel Whitt, the communication representative for UCAM, said UNMPD’s safety initiative was being prepared last year.
Whitt said that while UNMPD has always advocated for increased safety awareness and community policing, being on social media adds a new dimension to their policing of campus.
“None of the stuff that they’re doing right now is new, the community policing is not new, all of this stuff is ongoing, it’s just drawing public awareness to it and helping people connect with the officers more and helping the officers connect with the community more,” Whitt said.
Lianna Maldonado, a sophomore at UNM, said that because social media is such a big part of this generation of college students, accessibility to UNMPD and its safety message will be important to students.
“I think it will really help students become more interactive with UNMPD and make it more accessible,” Maldonado said. “It could potentially reach a larger audience than it was reaching before, because of the accessibility on social media.”
Heckmet Kameyab, a senior and accounting major at UNM said UNMPD’s social media presence will improve communication between students and the police department.
“If they’re going to be helping you, you’re going to want to make their jobs easier and you want to give feedback — it’s just easier to contact them,” Kameyab said.
Tom Hanlon is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TomHanlonNM.