On social media, Victoria police weed out aspiring pot buyer

n the old days, Victoria police Const. Mike Russell might have been walking a beat, talking to shopkeepers and taking the pulse of a neighborhood.

On Thursday morning, he was doing an updated version of that task, tapping into the social media networks to see what was happening in the city.

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That’s when he stumbled upon the following message posted on the social news website, Reddit:

“Where/how could an aspiring pot smoker such as myself buy weed on campus/near campus? I want to try it but have no idea how to get started at UVic, despite its apparent widespread use. Thanks!”

The note, in all its specificity, was from someone named uvicmj, which, we can only assume, is short for mary jane.

A bemused Russell responded with a single word: Cough.

To which someone cracked: “Scram! It’s the Fuzz!”

The exchange unleashed a torrent of comments on the popular site, where users can vote on submissions and move them up or down in the rankings.

By early afternoon, the drug-buy-gone-wrong had rocketed onto Reddit’s front page.

Most of the commentators were impressed that a police officer had 1. a sense of humour, 2. a working knowledge of social networks, and 3. an interest in what they had to say. 

“To be fair,” wrote Salacious, “you guys probably do know all the places to get weed.”

“Valid point,” Russell replied.    

From there, the conversation quickly progressed through a discussion of drug policy, Taser use and downtown Victoria.

“Congratulations on making this the #1 thread in /r/VictoriaBC history,” wrote inkblob. “Also,  thanks for cleaning up View & Douglas this summer, appreciate seeing you guys [downtown]”

Russell, who serves as both communications officer and social media guru, monitors multiple social networks a day, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.

“I love it because it shows our human side,” he said. “We get out a lot of public safety messaging as well with that.”

He noted that once the department connects with the community, those contacts can be put to good use in an emergency. For example, when a 10-year-old boy recently went missing one night, Russell posted a photo of the boy on social media sites.

“We had people calling in and tweeting and Facebooking us saying, ‘I am out in my community right now, holding this boy’s picture that you put up on Facebook, and I’m running into other members of my community doing the same thing.’ That’s so powerful.”

Russell learned most of what he knows on the job and now checks the sites first thing in the morning. He checks again one last time before bed.

“I can have a conversation with one person in a coffee shop,” he said. “But this is like getting up in Centennial Square with a blow horn. It amplifies the message, it amplifies the conversation and let’s people get in on it.”

-- Weed discussion on Reddit

lkines@timescolonist.com

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