Friday, August 10, 2012

please help stop crime in the tower district: facebook folly?

i once was a part of a group on facebook.  it seemed like a pretty good idea.  neighbors wanted to help each other out.  they wanted to be able to let people what was going on, and help find solutions.  i don't know if this can ever really work, but i thought it was a good idea.  eventually, i took myself out of the group.

yes, i left the "please help stop crime in the tower district" group on facebook.

why?  well, despite the best intentions of the founders of the group*, it became a place to bitch and moan about the things that certain people didn't like.  i admit, i wasn't fond of some of these things as well, but i also didn't think that these gripes really met the purpose of the group.  yes, the tower community garden had become a mess, a nuisance, and some minor criminal activity was happening there, but overall, was that the problem of crime in the neighborhood?  and the voluntarily homeless that loitered around some of the businesses were bad, but again, were they the major problem around?  it was these sorts of frequent posts and ensuing comment threads that drove me out of the group, which, since it's a facebook group leaving was pretty easy.

the group continues on, as it should.  and, as i would expect, it has just gotten worse.  there are still some beneficial posts, stuff that actually alerts people about crime happening, but there is soooo much more.  somebody thinks they heard a gun shot.  someone saw some guy that looks "suspicious" in their neighborhood.  the cops arrested someone in fresno with a gun so i'm posting a photo.  i saw the cops, anyone know why?  little ceasars is a nuisance.  and the comments on most post, ugh.  they range from racist to threats of violence to the occasionally helpful.

i mean, i understand if you just saw someone committing a crime, and you're giving people the heads up.  but when there are continual comments and posts advocating open violence, i'm not sure you're helping to end crime in the neighborhood.  i'm pretty sure that advocating crime isn't going to stop crime.

here's a few actual comments from recent threads:  
"Forget the police. It's time to shoot a thief when they try to rob your place. Maybe if a few gang mutts were hung in front of the Tower they'd get the message and move on."

"Text me from now on since PD's "too busy", besides there's only one thing these guys understand and it isnt cell phone pics or threats to call the cops. Remember they didnt grow up like you and me, their moral compasses are off, the threat of the cops doesnt strike fear in them anymore because they know they'll be out within the hour... so maybe a 6'5" 235lb tattoo covered Marine confronting them would be the best medicine from now on"

"mark my words everyone, there will be a day in the near future when we will have to rise up and protect ourselves. Depending on a non existent police presence is not going to protect you or your belongings anymore. We have to watch out for each other, protect each other and stand up against this criminal element who is preying on us like we are baby gazelle. If we ALL stand up, If we all confront them in unison regardless of personal belief about how to go about it, then they will stop. We cant stand idly by anymore because we are too afraid to confront someone, we cannot let these people take our possessions so freely. Please meditate on my words friends. Because I will be standing with you should this be the case when I am out, I will be emphasis to your voice and strength behind your strength and courage. I hope that after reading this that we will start making a difference, and not allowing people to stand alone as victims any longer."

now, those last two comments are from the same guy.  who is he, bane?  

here's one from someone else
"it's typical entitlement society behavior. These street people think they can harass and intimidate people. Then when challenged they want to play the "homeless", "mentally ill' ,or "race card". It's time to teach them to stop messing with people. This cavepest makes the mistake of sitting on the ground in front of the post office in the afternoon. A good quick kick from a steel boot might teach him some manners. Old ladies might be scared of him but he better watch out. I's how they operate they target people they think are weak or they can intimidate."

yep, this is going to stop crime in the tower.
my favorite part of the page, though, has to be the post about cafe corazon not opening until 10 a.m., and all of these people that "love" the tower attacking a successful business family for their decision to keep the hours that work for them.  effing brilliant.  

*please understand that this post is in no way intended as a slight to the founders or their intentions. the idea may be good, but i'm critiquing what the page has become and expressing the why i've left & stay away.


Jay Parks said...

One of the things we've tried to do is to formulate a written policy on posting. Some of the stuff you quote is in violation of that policy. I'm to blame for that - since I'm pretty used to comments on the internet, I'm hesitant to delete anyone's comment.

It's also hard to moderate a facebook page in the same way you can a blog.

When the page really took off (in terms of the number of members) we began to see the shift that you mention. There are helpful posts and comments, but also a lot of off topic and hateful things there. Allowing access to anyone was more important to me than keeping the focus narrow.


Mintzworks said...


Once the site got featured on TV, the membership grew and GREW. It's been featured 2-3 times now.

There are people on the site who don't even live in the Tower - or in Fresno. There have been people on the site who just use it to warn the street kids and some gang folk about the "plans" for the Tower.

And there are people on the site who are extremists on both ends of the spectrum.

Which makes this your (very) typical facebook page, group, or any other semi-large gathering of people.

There are lines that get crossed, but those lines can't possibly be delineated perfectly, so it's hard to moderate without equally pissing people off, and on the other end there are people we genuinely want and need on that page (like you) who get fed up and leave.

Imperfect arrangement but still with a sense of community and pride. Just like the Tower.

Jay Parks said...

One thing I've suggested to people fed up with all the comments: turn off instant notification for posts. Most people just want a general sense of what is happening in the Tower, but don't need to have a text everytime a comment goes up. (For some, that's exactly what they want). ONe positive thing about the page is that participation is up to each member. You can read the entire thread for something you're interested in knowing, and skip what you aren't.

edluv said...

jay, stephen,
thanks for the input. i think you guys are making good points. it would suck to have to make it some sort of moderated page or to really have to police the page all the time. i stand by the idea of the page, and think it could be a really good resource for community organization and awareness.

it just seems like it's now filling with people that really don't embrace any sort of tower ethos.

and honestly, i sort of do what i did today, every so often i'll see someone i know commented on a story there, i'll click over and skim stories to see if there is anything i need to know.

do you guys think there are other ways to improve the quality of posting & commenting there?

Jay Parks said...

We could moderate posts more strictly. I just feel like that makes it "my" page instead of the Tower's. It's hard not to feel like that is an attractive option sometimes.

edluv said...

it's a good point about not wanting it to just be your page versus a community page.

also, the page is a good reminder to me that many people don't share the same ethos about what & who the tower is.