Run a search for “#9pmroutine” on Twitter and it might seem a fool’s errand to ascribe ownership to any one account. On Wednesday night, for example, the reminder to lock houses and cars for the night showed up on the feeds of law enforcement agencies in Eugene, Ore., and Abbotsford, British Columbia; in Frisco, Texas, and Lincoln, Neb.; in small Lawrenceville, Ga., and of the New York Police Department’s 77th Precinct.
But as of late last month, state records show, the 9 p.m. routine hashtag is copyrighted by the agency that started it, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office started using the phrase in nightly posts in 2016, and it was quickly adopted by other agencies around the country. As the Sheriff’s Office’s robust social media presence has ballooned since then — thanks in large part to a long stint on the enormously popular and somewhat controversial TV show Live PD — it has been picked up by more than 100 agencies around the country, said Chase Daniels, an assistant executive director at the Sheriff’s Office.
Those other agencies aren’t why the Sheriff’s Office’s legal team decided to pursue a copyright earlier this year, Daniels said. But given the hashtag’s popularity, the agency wanted to protect itself against possible bad actors.
“By no means do we want to stop the spread of this,” Daniels said. “It’s a very important crime prevention method ... What we don’t want to see is people starting to profit off the 9 p.m. routine.”
By way of example, Daniels noted GoFundMe campaigns he has seen that purport to fund crime protection and use the hashtag to drum up contributions. He said the copyright would also provide extra protection for the Sheriff’s Office if someone were to use the hashtag as part of a criminal enterprise, such as a nominal crime protection company that’s actually a theft front.
The 9 p.m. routine is a core part of a social media gameplan that has evolved over the past few years, Daniels said. It has been a constant as the agency’s social media team has taken to new tactics and platforms — including Snapchat and TikTok — and shied away from other types of posts. He said the Sheriff’s Office posts mugshots less often than it used to, and that it stopped posting on-scene arrest photos after its “Sad Criminal of the Day” feature came under fire as being exploitative.
It also ended its contract with Live PD earlier this year, which Daniels said was because the Sheriff’s Office had been on the show for longer than all but one other agency and leadership felt it was time to pass the spotlight.
Still, he said, engaging a wide audience is a priority. He sees the softer, more approachable posts as a means to hook the audience so that more of the community sees serious posts in emergencies.
“We want to have as large an audience as possible,” he said, “so that whenever we have a — God forbid — bad day, we have that audience already.”