By night, Deep Ellum comes to life, but 24/7, it has an increasingly active virtual life on Facebook.
“It’s basically a crime watch meeting minute by minute,” explained Dallas Police Officer Ryan Lowman.
He and Officer Tyler Prothro started the Deep Ellum/Uptown Officers Corner Facebook page last month. “Now everybody can see, hey where did that panhandler go?”
The officers started the page after posting an arrest of an alleged parking lot scammer on the Deep Ellum Community Watch Facebook page. They were surprised by the traction the post got.
“That’s really kind of when the light bulb went off in my head,” said Prothro. “It’s like, we can really use this as a weapon against crime and as a tool to really bring the community together.”
The officers administer the closed Facebook page to keep tabs on who is allowed on it, and see posts right as they are made. They say it’s a useful tool.
At a time when DPD officer numbers are dropping, the Facebook page and its nearly 700 (and growing) followers act as a force multiplier.
“So yeah, we might be dwindling in size, but you’re adding eyes to it,” explained Lowman. He said it works in Deep Ellum in particular because the community already has an active Facebook page of its own.
“Any crime that we see, it’s handled immediately,” said Jessica Brodsky, a bartender at Reno’s who is also on the Deep Ellum/Officer’s Corner Facebook page. “It’s almost faster than calling 911.”
The officers note, their Facebook page is not a substitute for 911, just an extra tool in the crime-fighting box.
“It’s effectively no different than getting on Facebook and saying, hey buddy, you’re my friend. Can you come over and help me out with this thing,” said Prothro.
The officers said as the criminals get wise, they’ve seen crime statistics drop on their watch, but go up at other times of the day. “They’re moving,” said Lowman. “They’re starting to catch on that we’re looking for people, even the smallest crimes.”
The goal is to get more officers on other shifts involved, and ultimately, more neighborhoods.