‘Twitter cop’ connects with the community

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | Anyone that has visited the 19th Precinct’s Twitter feed knows that it is something special.

Run-of-the-mill photos of award ceremonies, community meetings and officer retirement announcements are made more lively with snappy headlines and puns. The feed is peppered with funny snapshots staged by officers or officer selfies with community members.

“It humanizes the badge,” said Officer Anthony Nuccio, the digital communications officer responsible for managing the Upper East Side precinct’s Twitter and Facebook pages. The social voice of the precinct is really his.

Officer Anthony Nuccio on the “tweet beat” at the 19th Precinct. (Courtesy 19th Precinct)

According to Nuccio, the purpose of the precinct’s social-media accounts is twofold. They are meant to provide the public with pertinent information about crime and safety in their community, plus to improve the relationship between civilians and officers.

“A lot of times people don’t think of us as police officers — they think of us as robots,” Nuccio said.

He admits that when he first joined the force, his idea of a proper officer fell along these lines.

But the police are far from cyborgs, as sometimes can be seen, for example, in some little errors that occur when placing crime-related information up on social media. On March 5, the 19th Precinct posted a wanted sign for a young man who allegedly stole $7,047 worth of beer from a 7-Eleven store at 1453 Third Ave., at 82nd St.

An April Fool’s photo Officer Nuccio posted on the precinct’s social media. (Courtesy 19th Precinct)

It seemed like an impossibly huge brew burglary. In fact, it was. The Deputy Commissioner of Public Information — the Police Department’s press office — subsequently notified the precinct that there was a typo, since the “Beer Bandit” — as the precinct dubbed him on social media — had only really taken $70.47 worth of alcohol.

“I was very rigid,” Officer Nuccio reflected about when he was first approached being a digital communications officer, or “D.C.O.” “I was a little bit more reserved.”

But as he spent more time engaging with the community online, he loosened up and started to think more creatively about how to better serve it via his new role.

According to a 2018 Gallup poll, only 54 percent of Americans trust the police either a “great deal or quite a lot.” That’s actually an increase from years prior.

Officer Anthony Nuccio with an award for exemplary service. (Courtesy 19th Precinct)

Nuccio can attest to the increase in community trust in officers since he began working at the 19th in 2014. In his view, there has been a visible increase in the number of people that feel more comfortable reporting crimes, for example.

The improved relationship can also be attributed to the fact that Nuccio himself responds to every single direct message sent to the precinct’s Twitter account. And although the social-media accounts are not monitored 24 hours a day, Officer Nuccio said he frequently checks them during his off hours at home. He views every complaint as a new challenge and a new way to learn about the community needs.

“We aren’t just there when you call 911,” he said. “We are always there.”

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