Evesham Township Police Department launches Instagram account

Police officials say the account is meant to help the department reach a younger demographic than it does through other social media.

The Evesham Township Police Department is taking yet another step into the world of social media with the launch of the department’s own Instagram account.

With the account now active, police officials say the department is hoping to use the social network to share photos and videos that will increase the department’s engagement with the township’s younger residents.

To accomplish that goal, the department has tasked its community policing officers with posting pictures to the department’s new account and interacting with its followers.

Followers can already see photos such as one of the pink police badges officers wore to support breast cancer awareness in October, bikes from the department’s bicycle patrol or an officer posing with three young brothers from town who stopped by the department to donate supplies the department will be sending to those affected by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina.

“Our social media has been a great tool for our agency in getting our message out … but when we looked at it, we saw that weren’t doing as good of a job as we would have liked reaching the ages 13 to 24 demographic,” ETPD Lt. Joseph Friel said.

According Friel, the department’s research showed Instagram would be the best social media channel for the department to use to reach that missing audience.

“It’s a way to showcase our agency, put out a positive message and connect with the youth of our township,” Friel said.

As opposed to the department’s Facebook page or Twitter page, Friel said the Instagram account would not be used to post arrest information, surveillance photos or other more serious information.

Instead, Friel said the Instagram account would focus on “positive” photos and posts.

To make that a reality, Friel said the department’s new Instagram account is the first social media channel at the department where multiple community policing officers will have access while out in the field.

As opposed to other social media pages that fall under the control of the department’s public information officer, the Instagram account will allow community-policing officers to use their department-issued phone to post directly to the account.

“We more want our community policing officers to build a connection with a younger generation where they’re having fun with pictures, interacting, liking, commenting — we want our community policing officers responding back to the comments and having that exchange online,” Friel said.

However, as Friel alluded to, Instagram is far from the department’s first foray into social media.

As far as police departments go, officials with ETPD view the department as one of the earlier adopters of Facebook, with the launch of the department’s own page in 2010.

From 2013 to 2014, police officials believe the page was the largest Facebook page belonging to a government-run agency in New Jersey. The page also surpassed more than 30,000 likes earlier this year.

However, while Friel said Facebook helps the department do an “outstanding job” reaching ages 25 to 55, with Instagram, the department is all about the kids.

“Just like everything we do, it’s about trying to make the younger generation feel like the police department is approachable,” Friel said.

Those interested in following the department’s new account can do so through @eveshampd.