Georgetown residents, police and retailers have come to rely on the Business Improvement District’s GroupMe messaging account to get up-to-date information on thefts, fires and other safety concerns in the neighborhood. The BID and the Metropolitan Police Department launched the “Georgetown Business Public Safety” GroupMe account last March as a way for the community to stay in touch with law enforcement. The BID is in charge of adding new members to the messaging group.
When the group started, most messages came from police officers alerting community members and retailers about things to watch out for. But as the group has evolved, more and more messages come from people working at local shops reporting “suspicious activity,” theft and general disorder in the area. Sometimes these messages are accompanied by photos of those suspected to be causing trouble.
To such messages, police officers on the message chain usually reply ‘omw’ (on my way) or tell the retailers to call 911 for immediate assistance. (As with most messaging media these days, spelling and grammatical errors abound and abbreviations – like ‘bolo’ for be on the lookout – are plentiful.)
Rachel Cothran from the BID says the message board has “been enormously helpful to the merchants. They’re better connected to one another, and they get immediate responses from officers.”
It is unclear what happens when the police arrive at these scenes, but it’s likely that their presence wards off thefts and in some cases arrests have been made. Sales associates at local stores frequently ask for police walk-throughs to deter “suspicious” characters from committing theft or other crimes. Cothran says an exact number of thefts precluded or arrests is “hard to quantify.”
GroupMe was launched in 2010 and acquired by Skype in 2011. Having purchased Skype, Microsoft now owns the app.