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Port Royal police aren't working more overtime these days, but it might seem that way.
The police department has started keeping its office doors open an three extra hours and also has ventured into social media. It's a test, part of an effort to be more accessible to residents and to keep them better informed, Chief Alan Beach said.
Instead of closing at 5 p.m., an officer and detective are now in the office, located on 1748 Paris Avenue, until 8 p.m. to talk to people who walk in and to answer phone calls. "During lunch we get swamped with people on their breaks," Deputy Chief Ron Wekenmann said. "It's the same in the evening -- right at 5 p.m. there's a flux from people getting off work."
Longer operating hours -- made possible by rearranging schedules, not adding officers or increasing overtime -- means residents don't have to hurry from work or leave early to visit the station. The staff has reported at least one walk-in and several phone calls each day during the new hours.
Beach said he's confident the change will become permanent.
The department also revamped its website and started Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The old website was "pretty dormant," Beach said, but Wekenmann reconstructed it. The new www.portroyalpd.com now has downloadable forms that allow citizens to file complaints, request extra duty officers in an area and request ride-alongs with a police officer for a day. The site also has a monthly newsletter detailing safety and community-outreach programs.
Beach said the staff has been trying to become more Facebook- and Twitter-savvy after the social media tools proved to be an effective crime-fighting tool in other jurisdictions.
"I did look at (the city of ) Beaufort's page a little," Beach said, referring to the Beaufort Police Department Facebook page. "I didn't really comprehend -- until I was looking at it every day -- how quickly it grows."
Beaufort has had a crime page since 2009, but only recently began posting photos of suspects and asking the public for help identifying them. Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy said the site has helped lead to more than 15 arrests.
As of Saturday, about two weeks after its launch, the Port Royal Police Department Facebook page had collected 359 "likes."
The department's Twitter account, @PortRoyalPD, is growing more slowly, with only 10 followers as of Saturday, but Beach said he and other supervisors plan to use the account to warn residents about traffic accidents or other issues that might affect driving.
"It's all to try to help and to solve more crime," Beach said.