After years of photographing the dead and the macabre, Coroner’s Investigator Paul Beecroft finds pleasure and comfort in capturing the images of the living, especially the happy little things in nature that people often overlook. And that joy can be found, well, all around us if you just take a moment stop and look. Here’s more of what caught Paul’s eye and imagination as he continued his trek through the countryside of New Zealand.
Note the Sparrows in this tree
…and the little Fantail in this one
Paul Beecroft has spent a good deal of his life in law enforcement, in England. He’s worked Foot Patrol, Area Car, Instant Response Car and also as a Police Motorcyclist. He currently serves as a coroner’s investigator and has traveled all over England, Wales, Scotland and even Germany to investigate crimes.
A Philadelphia cop taps social media for crime control
Using social media doesn’t just mean mundane status lines and community games. Joseph Murray, a Philadelphia-based detective, has devised a unique way to combine Twitter with his neighborhood watch. As a result, he’s made his area a safer place. Hopefully, his idea will go viral. Imagine all these Twitter-communities keeping watch.
Murray is a third-generation police officer and long-time Philadelphia resident. He joined the force when he was just 19. Six years later, he became a detective. He started his online networking efforts with community blogs when he became a member of the Southwest Division. He wanted potential victims to be aware of danger zones – especially those that were presently in progress. Twitter provided a great tool, for both brevity and speed.
Murray opened a Twitter account in 2009 and identified himself as a detective. He’s @TheFuzz9143 (his badge number). He signaled that he would be posting tweets about crime patterns, suspects, and public safety. He asked people to let him know if he could be of assistance. It was an invitation to be involved.
“Everyblock is reporting a stranger rape on the 200block of 47th Friday night,” one Tweeter writes. “Nothing in news. Is this true?”
“Not true,” TheFuzz9143 responds. “Can’t find anything in any computer system we have here.” Followers can see the response and retweet it. If he gets an update, he can send it out at once, and the update quickly spreads.
In another tweet, Murray related a “great job done by a few citizens who called police when they spotted a guy who committed a robbery a few nights ago. Arrest made. Phone returned.”
As of today, he has acquired around 1285 followers, many of whom live in his area. He’s known some followers as long as 5 years, from the earlier message boards.
“I started Twitter,” he says, “because the neighborhood message boards were becoming irrelevant. I wanted to use the popular medium. You have to adapt or you’ll be left behind.”
He’s aware of the limitations of a few cops driving around a neighborhood: they can be in only one place at any given time. Citizens who join the effort to keep their neighborhoods safe offer more eyes and ears. It’s also a way to build trust and cooperation. Even Philadelphia’s mayor has posted tweets on Murray’s feed.
On a daily basis, he tweets where and when crimes are occurring (“just had a gunpoint Robbery on 47th Street”), and responds to queries. For example, they arrested a guy in the process of a car-jacking who couldn’t figure out a stick shift. Murray even tweets to criminals not yet arrested, warning them they’ll be in custody soon.
Murray is a face to which people can relate, a protector who listens. He’ll even comment on mundane things like what he’s eating or the billboard ads he notices. When things are quiet, he offers safety tips or posts a photo he just took. If someone wants to send a tip confidentially, Murray provides his private email address.
To spread the word, reporters have written about Murray’s efforts to lift the veil that often blocks the police from the community they serve. One Philadelphia journalist contacted residents to get their reactions, finding individuals who keep Murray’s Twitter feed on their home pages or who feel like Murray is a friend. This is positive community policing in action. One neighborhood watch group routinely checks Murray’s tweets before they go out on patrol.
Recently, bureaucracy slowed things down, as officials realized that policies must be in place before officers reach out in this medium. “Per a new directive,” Murray tweeted in January, “all personnel wanting to use social media under their official title must get approval from the commissioner.”
The Philadelphia Police Department recognizes the service Murray provides and they’re currently training 12-15 officers to exploit social network opportunities for community relations. It’s important to have consistency. The department itself has a Twitter feed, @Phillypolice.
The concept is simple: train officers to use Twitter, publicize their “beat” locally, and invite followers to provide information about things they observe. Also, provide followers with safety tips and updates (where possible) about local crime. It’s a terrific way to tap the networking power of social media. It’s not a replacement for 911, but it does connect a lot of people. It also makes them feel safer and more involved.
Let’s hope more towns and cities pick up on it. As Murray states, “It’s win-win.”
Dr. Katherine Ramsland has master’s degrees in forensic and clinical psychology, a master’s in criminal justice, and a Ph.D. in philosophy. She has published nearly 1,000 articles and forty books, including The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, The CSI Effect, Inside the Minds of Serial Killers, Inside the Minds of Healthcare Serial Killers, Inside the Minds of Mass Murderers, Inside the Minds of Sexual Predators, and The Human Predator: A Historical Chronology of Serial Murder and Forensic Investigation. She has been featured on numerous documentaries and such programs as 20/20, The Today Show, 48 Hours, Montel Williams, and Forensic Files, and she currently writes regular features for InSinc and The Forensic Examiner. She teaches forensic psychology and criminal justice as an associate professor at DeSales University in Pennsylvania and consults with death investigators and law enforcement worldwide on cases involving serial murder.
Libraries have acted as community cornerstones for millennia, and every April marks School Library Month, celebrating how they promote education and awareness in an open, nurturing space. What makes them such lasting institutions, though, isn’t the mere act of preserving books and promoting knowledge. Rather, it’s the almost uncanny ability to consistently adapt to the changing demands of the local populace and emerging technology alike. The library system probably won’t disappear anytime soon, but rather, see itself blossoming into something new and exciting in congruence with today’s myriad informational demands.
More technologyProbably the most obvious direction libraries will trend involves more seamless integration of technologies at a faster, more sophisticated pace than even now. With so many exciting new gadgets and concepts such as ebook readers, tablet PCs, open source, and more, they have plenty of resources on hand to meet community demands. Books, sadly, do not hold the same collective appeal as the shiny and new gadgets, but enterprising librarians know they can still bring literature to the masses by utilizing its lust for technology.
Sensory story timesAs awareness of the needs of autism spectrum and developmentally disabled children swells, more and more libraries are scheduling sensory story times making sure they get to enjoy literature in a manner most comfortable to them. Many libraries who have developed such programming recommend visual schedules so kids know what’s coming up next, carpet tiles or cushions for sitting, and hands-on activities. Even mainstream children can enjoy these events, so all members of the community benefit from creating a more inclusive space.
Better outreach to ESOL and ESL adults and childrenNew York’s public library system, in an effort to make sure as many patrons take advantage of their offerings as possible, has put forth the time, money, and energy to improve upon its ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) and ESL (English as a second language) programming. Increasing globalization means more multilingual cities, and because libraries stand as integral pillars of the community, they make for excellent introductions to what new neighbors might come to expect. And greater engagement means greater communication and closer relationships.
AutomationIf the automated system at the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at University of Chicago catches on, readers might say, “Sayonara!” to stacks. Not only are almost all of its holdings available for online retrieval, visitors can also access them in person without having to navigate the often baffling academic library cataloging system. Instead, they input their desired read and a complicated system of machinery burrows 50 feet underground to fetch and deliver it. No browsing required. Because of the expense however, it will probably be quite a while before full automation catches on in libraries worldwide.
Emphasizing community spacePlacing more stock in technologies obviously frees up quite a bit of library space, and leaders at the Anoka County Library in Minneapolis know just how to put it to good use. More room means they can start offering a wider range of programming, serving as a community center focused on learning rather than just literature. Some of their plans include genealogy classes targeting seniors wanting to know more about their family histories and giant letter blocks for children. Libraries probably won’t disappear to digitization, but their shape will likely change over time.
More social media savvyAs with the latest in literary gadgetry creeping into libraries, social media has already started ingraining itself as integral to the experience. It offers greater community outreach, promoting and answering questions about events, and provides a forum in which to share cool book news. Social media also makes it easier than ever for libraries to receive feedback about what sort of programming the community wants most, suggestions about how to improve offerings, and talks about what books need to make their way to the shelves. Hosting online discussions certainly holds its merits as well!
Digital media labsIn an effort to lure in more teenagers, Chicago Public Library hybridized the traditional system with a digital media lab dubbed YOUmedia. There, they can take advantage of the video recording and editing equipment, computers, recording studio (complete with keyboards and turntables!), and classes on graphic design, podcasting, and photography. YOUmedia also hosts an Internet-based literary magazine. With so many seriously amazing offerings, high school kids can learn even more about the potential career paths that interest them most; seeing as how libraries are all about education, these offerings don’t stray from their core values.
Electronic outpostsSimilar to the satellite system already in place for county libraries in larger towns and cities, futurist Thomas Frey thinks that – over time, of course – they might start the same thing with a more digital bent. Rather than acting as an extension of a central library’s physical holdings, they would work as almost a “cyber cafe” where patrons go to access digital archives. Many of the holdings would revolve around preserving the history of the surrounding communities, adding a more personalized dimension to the experience.
CrowdsourcingNew Jersey’s Madison Public Library is one of many libraries who understand that their survival depends on how well they interface with the neighborhoods that support them. So they’ve turned towards crowdsourcing their future, hosting focus groups and opening up to suggestions from professionals, patrons, and professional patrons alike. Much of what the people had to say of course involved technology, like training reference librarians in resources like YouTube, Wikipedia, Google, and more. They also wanted to see more programming aimed at engaging the growing Latin American community. All these responses help MPL better provide exactly what their visitors needs for a well-rounded educational experience.
More active librariansOnce again, the precedent has already been set here, with most libraries around the world asking their staff to pull double duty as event planners and class leaders. Seth Godin thinks the librarians of the future will almost universally be tasked with tutoring students on their homework, teaching patrons computer basics, and other responsibilities putting them at the front lines. But this transition is a positive one, as it nurtures a heightened sense of community and destigmatizes the librarian profession, painting them as neighborly mentors instead of silencing book police.
As those who read my John Ceepak Jersey Shore murder mysteries know, a young cop named Danny Boyle who grew up in my fictional town of Sea Haven, NJ and attended Holy Innocents Elementary when he was a kid, narrates the tales.
But here’s why Ceepak mystery #7 FUN HOUSE (available May 1st from Pegasus Crime) will be dedicated to Daniel R. Boyle.
Back in 2010, a woman I have never met named Sherri Bunting sent me an e-mail:
A friend wanted me to contact you about your Ceepak mysteries. Seems you use the name Danny Boyle as one of the police and her brother was an officer with Philadelphia police department until his untimely death in 1991. Her mother just picked up the first two books and has ordered a few more. Seeing just his name in print brings a kind of joy to their hearts. To see them this happy over such an odd coincidence is beyond words. I just wanted to thank you for the stroke of karma that made you choose his name.
Also, our Danny Boyle attended Holy Innocents School. Weird. Sending a link for you to the fallen officers page. Again thanks for putting a smile on their faces!
If you visit the real Danny Boyle’s Fallen Officer page you’ll learn that, at the age 21, he succumbed to a gunshot wound sustained after stopping a stolen car. Officer Boyle had served with the Philadelphia Police Department for one year. His “End of Watch” was February 6, 1991.
As you might imagine, that was one of the best e-mails I have ever received as an author. And I am very proud to have my new book dedicated to such a brave young man.
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Chris Grabenstein did improvisational comedy with Bruce Willis in New York before James Patterson (yes, that James Patterson) hired him at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. Chris also wrote for Jim Henson’s Muppets.
His Anthony Award-winning debut TILT A WHIRL (A John Ceepak mystery) was followed by MAD MOUSE, WHACK A MOLE, HELL HOLE, MIND SCRAMBLER and ROLLING THUNDER.
Ceepak mystery #7 FUN HOUSE will be available May 1st from Pegasus Crime.