On Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, a 16-year-old boy named Artwon Oliver was shot and killed at the intersection of Lee and Superior roads in Cleveland Heights. According to the reports (here are 2 from the Plain Dealer: first report, Nov. 27; follow up, Nov. 30), he had been at a house party nearby (which police broke up, if I’m understanding the reports correctly) and went to the Sunoco station with a couple friends to buy snacks.
This was at roughly 11:45 p.m., after which two cars of kids who may also have been at the party, pulled into the lot and confronted them. A fight ensued, neighbors called the police to report the melee and gunshots, and what we think of as an inner-city tragedy unfurled at the middle of a busy intersection in our suburban envelope.
I’ve had a lot to say about the Cleveland Heights Police Department’s struggle to understand how residents want to be engaged in the process of maintaining safety here. Here are a couple past commentaries:
- Let’s get serious about world-class policing
- How CH is and isn’t dealing with juvenile crime
- Before the city council elections, let’s define excellent
But the point of this post is to emphasize how well the police have handled this horrific crime from a resident’s point of view of.
Within 24 hours, the police had posted news of the shooting on their Twitter feed – which was set up a couple months ago to provide people with exactly this kind of information.
Two days later they used Twitter to tell us that 4 suspects had been arrested. And the next day, they even gave us mug shots of 3 (the 4th is a juvenile, so his identity is protected by law). I guess the police thought we would want to put faces to the names of the accused. Based on my own reaction, they were right. I was eager to see the mug shots.
Only about 115 people follow the police on Twitter right now, but their feed provided the first information that anybody in the community had about the shooting – including the news media. At the first opportunity, I posted the information at the FutureHeights/Observer Facebook page.
I’m pretty sure Twitter is going to prove itself the wrong tool for the job the police are trying to do – which is to inform and engage residents about their own public safety. Too many people don’t follow Twitter and would hate it if they tried. Twitter’s signal-to-noise ratio is so low that you have to manage it proactively if you expect it to deliver good information.
The city will figure that out over time, but right now what’s important is that the police department is trying to be proactive in giving us information we want and need, and I want to thank them for it.
And, of course, I want to thank them for their fast and aggressive work in getting these particular suspects off the street and out of our community. I hope the judicial system is just as effective at keeping them out.
My heart goes out to the family of Artwon Oliver, the boy who was killed – according to reports – while trying to calm the situation.
If you want to follow the Cleveland Heights police on Twitter, go here:
Twitter also has a function, if you register your mobile phone, to receive the Tweets via text – which is why I may have been one of the first people other than those involved to know about the tragedy.
By the way, those who were arrested are not strangers to the police, though none of them live in Cleveland Heights. The one pictured above, according to The Plain Dealer, was also one of those arrested in June’s flash-mob assault on the Coventry Street Fair.