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South Fulton expands communication & service accessibility, enhancing community-oriented policing

South Fulton Police Department

South Fulton, GA

The South Fulton, GA Police Department engaged with the community via the city’s website where communications and services were hard to find. With the goal of enhancing community support, the department implemented a mobile-first platform that made communication and accessing services easier for residents.

Topics Covered

Civic Technology
Law Enforcement and Emergency Response

Cost

Initial: 15 Thousand USD

Funding

Federal grants

Project Status

Operational since 2021

Gov Champion

Major T Johnson

Problem Addressed

South Fulton's Police Department sought its own communication channel to better provide information and services to residents.

As a young city founded in 2017, South Fulton is growing fast thanks to its emphasis on services and focus on enhancing the quality of life of its residents.

Since its establishment, South Fulton has grown to over 110,000 residents across approximately 85 square miles. And with over 20 police beats to ensure the protection of its residents' and businesses' safety, the city’s police department has a lot of territory to cover.

The city’s police department, SFPD, practices Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and is always looking for ways to increase engagement with the community. Community Oriented Policing differs from other strategies by recognizing that public safety problems are best solved through cooperation between residents and law enforcement.

In order for Community-Oriented Policing to be successful, however, there needs to be strong engagement and trust between the community and law enforcement.

As South Fulton’s population continues to grow, SFPD’s practice of using the city’s communications department to publish news, alerts, and updates on the city’s main website was no longer ideal. Communications from the police department often got lost among activity from other city departments on the website and services were not easily found, leading residents to call or visit precincts in person for information. In order to gain the trust and cooperation of the community, the department needed its own communication channel that would also make services easily available for residents. This change would also better equip the department to deal with events where narratives are taken out of context on social media by ensuring departmental control of the information being shared.

The key was finding the right tools to meet citizen expectations of police transparency and make information and services easily available so that residents would actually use them. To serve the department’s goal of enhancing communication with the city’s residents, the right solution would need to be mobile-first and not require any kind of registration, allow citizens to anonymously submit crime tips using pictures and videos, and enable SFPD to easily send real-time alerts and updates to end-users.

Solutions Used

South Fulton PD began enhancing communication with city residents through a web and app-based engagement platform.

South Fulton began enhancing communication with its city’s residents, and its commitment to community-oriented policing services, through the CityGuards platform.

Within days, SFPD was able to transition away from using the city communications department and instead post communications and updates through CityGuards. Residents benefitted from up-to-date information such as COVID-19 related public health information and services. Furthermore, SFPD’s control of department communications also means that the department is better equipped to deal with circumstances when narratives are taken out of context on social media. Department leaders can use CityGuards to communicate information in an official capacity, thereby reducing the chance of the information being misrepresented.

South Fulton residents also benefited from more easily accessible services and information. With the department embracing a community-oriented policing approach, cooperation from residents in reporting crimes is key. With CityGuards, residents can anonymously submit crime tips using pictures and locations without any kind of registration.

South Fulton’s new communications solution allows even non-technical officers to publish alerts, news, and other information in real-time. And because everything is web-based, officers are no longer tied to the office and can publish urgent information and updates directly to the community from a tablet in the field as long as they have internet access. “The police department now has a solution where they can freely send area-based (police beat) real-time alerts, communicate information and online services in a timely manner and without the fear of breaking something,” says Gary Leftwich, South Fulton Communications Director.

Major Tina Johnson, with SFPD’s Criminal Investigations Division: “CityGuards opened new opportunities for us. For example, a patrol officer can announce its presence to the local community and direct the local community and business on how to reach immediate assistance for non-emergencies from their designated beat officer.”

Outcomes

1

SFPD now has an mobile-first hub to communicate with the community and make its services more easily accessible.

2

Residents more likely to engage with the department and send in crime tips when they don’t need to register or have concerns about data privacy.

3

SFPD can easily send real-time alerts to end-users, as well as quickly take control in situations where narratives are taken out of context, all while engaging with the community.

4

Residents can now easily access services and information, reducing foot traffic and misplaced 911 calls to precincts and saving department staff valuable time.

5

Having a central communications hub to reach the entire community can build trust between residents and officers, creating familiarity that is essential to COPS.

Lessons Learned

1

Community Policing and community engagement and outreach are much easier given the right tools to do the job.

2

In-person foot traffic and telephone calls to the department is reduced when citizens can engage in police services using their mobile device.

Something Unique

SFPD introduced CityGuards after the city’s communications department began using a city services-oriented app, It’sMyTown. Two features were developed on the CityGuards platform as a direct result of South Fulton PD feedback: 1) Service/Officer Commend/Complaint feature and 2) a file management solution allowing the staff the ability to publish and and edit service forms to CityGuards with a quick upload

Who Should Consider

Any size law enforcement agency where community oriented policing is a priority and current tools could be improved in reaching the community and making services and communication more accessible.

Other Recognition

Testimonial From Chief Meadows

Government Project Team

  • Major T. Johnson, Criminal Investigation Division
  • Lt. N. Williams, Special Services Supervisor
  • Lt. J. Rogers, PIO

Last Updated

Jun 27th, 2022

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