August 21, 2014 10:34:38 AM
The Starkville Police Department launched a Twitter account Wednesday that will provide updates on local policing issues, road conditions and severe weather situations, while directly answering questions and concerns from residents.
The Twitter account is @Starkville_PD.
The launch affirms SPD Chief Frank Nichols' promise to aldermen during his job interview earlier this year that the police department would increase its interactions and outreach with residents.
SPD previously launched its own Facebook page after Nicholas' ascension to chief in February, and 2,201 users have liked the page as of Wednesday.
The new Twitter account had yet to publish any updates as of press time, but Nichols said the department will use it in the same fashion as its Facebook page.
"The new page was started primarily for football season, as the town goes from about 25,000 residents to almost 100,000, including visitors," the chief said. "Then, we can use it to help address parking problems, road closures and answer questions for those who don't know where roads are. We can easily push out answers as we receive questions. Most people are on either Facebook or Twitter now, but some prefer one over the other. It's just another tool for us to utilize and get information out.
"Our Facebook page has been very helpful," Nichols added. "We've received a lot of positive comments about it."
In addition to social media outreach efforts, Nichols proposed organizing monthly meetings within each of Starkville's seven wards to discuss neighborhood-specific issues with residents. He also lobbied to create a citizen police academy modeled after other Mississippi municipalities' programs and said SPD would launch four satellite precincts within Starkville.
SPD opened its first substation, located at 151 Alfred Perkins St., on Feb. 28 in a facility donated by Starkville Housing Authority. That location will also serve as a home to the department's Community Oriented Policing program.
The department also announced in April it would use a rent-free facility, located at Amos and Miller Management LLC-owned 1200 Louisville Apartments, for at least a year to provide a police presence in the Academy Drive area.
During his February job interview, Nichols also lobbied aldermen for 10 additional new officer positions within the next eight years to help serve the city's growing population and pay raises and adjustments for numerous employees, including dispatchers and animal control officers.
The three-person Starkville Audit and Budget Committee split over employee pay raises this summer. Two members - Chairman Scott Maynard and Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn - asked for more time to study the issue, while Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins said the city likely cannot afford such raises.
Nichols, a lifelong resident of Starkville, worked his way from patrolman to police chief after joining the force in 1992. He replaced former Chief David Lindley, who retired at the end of 2013.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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