I got a new phone for Mother’s Day.
It doesn’t flip or slide open and apparently that’s a good thing. Personally, I thought those were nice, practical features that protected the screen from damage.
I’m told I was wrong.
Anyway, now my phone is smart even if I am not and I can join the rest of you in snapping photos and recording and posting video of anything I come across during my day that I find cute, offensive, tragic, beautiful, tasty or criminal.
Oh and trust me, I will.
When I figure out how to work that part.
In the meantime I will watch and envy your work.
I must say I was seriously impressed last week with the response to a five-second video posted on Facebook by former Bangor mayor and current state Senate candidate Cary Weston.
Weston, who frequents the intersection at Broadway and Griffin Road, was stopped and recorded traffic flowing through the intersection, including cars clearly blowing through the red light.
“Someone is going to get hurt or killed at Griffin & Broadway … . I happened to get video today and this is the lightest running red traffic I’ve seen in a bit … usually 3-4 cars easily,” he posted alongside the video.
The online response was nearly immediate, with other drivers commiserating and noting other dangerous intersections around the city. There were nearly 60 comments made, including from four city councilors and a Bangor police lieutenant.
And soon an officer with the city’s designated patrol division was at the intersection writing warnings and issuing tickets.
As Weston noted, it was local “digital democracy in action.”
Our phones can be powerful tools — or weapons.
I later talked to Bangor Police Chief Mark Hathaway about the impact of social media on law enforcement.
“I’ll be truthful, when I first heard about the department getting a Facebook page and using social media, I thought it was sort of foolish, but it has become a very important tool for us,” he said.
Two bank robbery suspects were captured last year after video images of them were posted on Facebook, and let’s just say that shoplifting has become a bit riskier since it became so easy to share in-store security camera footage with the entire community.
“We get names called in to us all the time when we post those security camera shots,” Hathaway said.
Facebook has become an impressive crime-fighting mechanism.
While Weston’s short video got quick action, Hathaway insisted that any citizen who notifies the department of a problem area in the city will get a similar response.
“We’ve been on Buck Street because citizens there have been concerned with speeding and we’ve been at Buck and Main streets because of red light infractions reported there. If someone calls here and reports a concern we are going to address that concern,” the chief said.
We don’t need video proof, he said.
“He (Weston) used Facebook to report a problem. That’s fine, but you can give us a call or send an email, either way, we want you to let us know if you are seeing a specific problem in any area in the city,” he said.
That said, and acknowledging a high concern with traffic offenses throughout the city, Hathaway noted that the department’s budget must be considered.
“We can’t afford to have officers staked out at any one place for long periods of time. We just don’t have those kind of resources, so it is hit or miss. But we will address concerns with traffic certainly and we will devote the resources that we can to it,” he said.
Police certainly can’t be everywhere, but with the technology we have in our pockets, you might find a fine preferable to the publicity you may get should your own bad behavior be posted on social media.
Meanwhile, you don’t have to worry about me recording your antics just yet.
I can make a call, send a text and today I learned how to create an “event” on the calendar.
It won’t be long and I may become a piece of the digital democracy movement.
You can reach Renee Ordway at firstname.lastname@example.org.