In less than 10 days, Alhambra Police Department's account on Weibo — a Chinese microblogging platform similar to Twitter — has grown to more than 5,000 followers. Alhambra PD, which teamed up with Alhambra Source to create the outreach campaign aimed at Chinese residents, is the first police department in the United States to launch an account. Immigrants in the San Gabriel Valley, from across the country, and residents of China have written in with questions about American police.
Other cities are taking notice. San Francisco, Seattle, San Leandro, San Jose, and Monterey Park police departments have all contacted Police Chief Mark Yokoyma with questions about how to set up a Weibo account and translation strategies. And Chinese residents from across the country have written to say they wish their cities would create an account.
Feedback has included questions about how old a child must be to be left home alon, how to dispose of a dead cat, or what to do when involved in a hit and run. A tip about a suspect even arrived.
“I am living in Missouri and the state does not have a specific requirement on the age of children who can be left home alone. I have an 8-year-old — may I ask if I can leave my child at home alone legally?”
“There is a dead cat on the construction site near Valley and Garfield. Please send someone to remove it since it is decaying.”
"I lost my cellphone, but I used Find My Phone to locate it. Could you help me get it back?"
Followers from China have been writing in as well, with popular questions about international driver's licenses, the process for becoming an American police officer, or even how to find some tourist whose picture was taken. About a dozen Chinese officers have also made contact, and posed questions about American policing strategies.
“I took a photo for some tourists from America when they were visiting Nanjing, but I could not get in touch with them. Could you please help me find them?”
The Alhambra PD's Weibo account is managed by Walter Ma, an Alhambra Source community contributor who wrote in July a story about engaging Chinese residents in the San Gabriel Valley. Ma's story caught Yokoyama's attention, and the chief met with Alhambra Source staff to brainstorm ways to increase engagement with the Chinese community in the Alhambra area.
The partnership will continue into 2014 and include a community forum about policing issues, questions with immigrant residents, and a series on "Ask a Cop" questions that will be published in three languages on Alhambra Source.