The Charleston Police Department is taking its message straight to the people with a new Facebook page.
The page was launched in January by officer Douglas Gallucio, the department's lead investigator into Internet crimes, especially those involving the exploitation of children.
Late last year, with the blessing of Police Chief Greg Mullen, Gallucio set up a Facebook page titled "Charleston Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force."
That page has a growing audience. As of Friday night, there were 282 Facebook users who "like" it.
"I saw that people were responding to it," Gallucio said. "So I suggested to the chief that a Facebook page for the department might be a good tool for reaching the public."
The department's page, titled "City of Charleston Police Department," has posts that are, in effect, crime bulletins, such as one with a composite drawing of a suspect wanted for the armed robbery of a pharmacy, and another post with a drawing of a man suspected of assaulting women near the College of Charleston.
Some of the posts are announcements about programs being offered by the department and some are crime prevention tips. Other posts link to news stories about crime prevention.
The department is not the only local law enforcement agency using social media.
The Charleston County Sheriff's Office has a Facebook page, but there has been no activity on it.
The Mount Pleasant Police Department also has a page, but it contains only information about the department from Wikipedia. The department also is using Twitter, with regular posts about traffic problems.
Gallucio said Facebook won't be an effective tool for the department until more people become aware of it. There were only 11 people who "like" the page as of Friday night. Gallucio wants to see that number grow.
The hope is that the page will evolve into more than just a place for announcements and crime bulletins, he said.
"We'd like to have the public post comments, questions and concerns."