US police uses Weibo to reach Chinese

Updated: 2014-08-19 07:10

By LIAN ZI in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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US police uses Weibo to reach Chinese

Screenshot of the Alhambra Police Department's Weibo Page

The police department of Alhambra, a city in Southern California, is using Weibo, a Chinese micro blogging site similar to Twitter, as an outreach tool for its Chinese residents. It has already garnered more than 27,000 followers.

The Alhambra Police Department (APD) is the first law enforcement agency in US to launch its own Weibo account. More than half of Alhambra's 85,000 residents are Asian, and about three quarters of them are Chinese, according to recent census date.

There are many ways to reach members of the APD, since they are particularly fond of their social media programs such as Weibo and Facebook, according to Mark Yokoyama, chief of police.

"Creating unique, innovative ways to communicate with the public is part of our mission and values," Yokoyama said. "Great communication techniques provide an enhanced level of service to all residents, while, at the same time, helping to build relationships and true community policing."

"Weibo is a very important and useful tool for us to communicate with our Chinese residents. It eliminates the gap between American police officers and residents who don't speak English," Gabriel Ponce, a spokesman for the APD, told China Daily, adding that it also helps people in China who want to stay connected to their families living in Alhambra by allowing them to know more about their lives here.

"We use and update our Weibo page very actively," Ponce said. "Followers can know what's going on in Alhambra by following us on Weibo."

A typical post came on Aug 17, updating information posted in Chinese: "Last night, there was a car accident in Orange County. Male adult driver suffered minor injuries and was arrested since he had an outstanding warrant."

Followers can also ask the APD questions by sending messages on Weibo. Walter Yu, who is the APD's Weibo page-manager and speaks both English and Chinese, said that new immigrants in Alhambra have lots of questions regarding their new environment and new policies they don't understand because of the language barrier.

For example, one resident asked: "My mailbox was opened by strangers, and everything in it was stolen. Should I call 911? Will APD charge me with an additional fee?"

A representative of the APD answered quickly: "You can call our 24-Hour Non-Emergency number. Please remember that we will go without any charge."

"It takes me only about one hour to get a response from the APD," said a Chinese resident who lives in Alhambra and has contacted the APD by using Weibo.

Having more than 500 million users, Weibo is one of the most popular social media tools in China. Many overseas Chinese remain connected through online news and social media outlets by using Weibo while living in the US.