NEW PORT RICHEY — Like Oprah Winfrey, Perez Hilton and Ellen DeGeneres, the Pasco Sheriff's Office is now on Twitter.
The man behind the Web site's 140-character messages, called tweets, is Kevin Doll, the sheriff's spokesman. The Twitter site is twitter.com/PascoSheriff.
Twitter is another social networking site where people can follow each other's activities. Unlike the majority of tweets — like this one Wednesday from musician Pete Wentz: "I think I'm going to buy a ukulele." Or this from actor Kirstie Alley: "Lunch in 1/2 hour with really hot Italian guy. Too young for me. Anyone want him?" — the Sheriff's Office tweets ("tweets" is also a verb) strictly to let people know about emergencies: school lockdowns, missing children and elderly people, escaped prisoners, closed roads, chemical spills and wanted fugitives.
"We've never had a way to quickly notify the public" about such things, said Doll, who had never tweeted before Tuesday. He prefers actual books to the wireless reading device Kindle and likes to sit down with a newspaper. He doesn't have a Facebook account or a MySpace page. But he's learning about Twitter fast. He posted a tweet about an accident Wednesday afternoon:
"Moon Lake Road closed south of State Road 52 due to traffic accident with injuries. Florida Highway Patrol investigating."
Doll said he and others at the Sheriff's Office discussed having a Twitter account for some time. Other law enforcement agencies, such as the Polk County Sheriff's Office, also use Twitter. An example of a Polk tweet:
"Lewd exposure suspect caught on surveillance video exposing himself in Polk City Circle K store http://www.polksheriff.org/…"
Then after finding the suspect with the public's help: "PCSO deputies located the Polk City lewd exposure suspect this morning and charged him by affidavit. Thanks for your help everyone!"
On Twitter, once you sign up, you can follow the tweets of other people or organizations, and they can follow yours. Their tweets can be sent to your cell phone or e-mail instantly, and you can see them on your Twitter home page.
The tweets are limited to 140 characters. (If you use Facebook, it's like a social network just of status updates.) People can write about whatever they want, and they usually do it about the mundane things they are doing, such as celebrity Brooke Burke did Wednesday: "At the Bean getting a latte."
Or they ramble incoherently, such as actor-musician Courtney Love: "imgoing to Ratners im sure long ago dissapated party buttheye will be no paps so i can wear my clotrhes i cannot wear til the CD iots ve … "
Because tweets are short, many of the ones Doll writes will direct people back to the Pasco Sheriff's Web site (www.pascosheriff.com) for more information. But he said Twitter is a great tool to let people know what's going on.
"It's something to say, 'Here is what you need to know,' " Doll said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.