SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - There isn't any doubt police in Savannah have had their hands full lately, but in this day of smart phones and social mead it's you who has the opportunity to help or hurt law enforcement efforts.
On Wednesday, Savannah-Chatham Metro Police received dozens of phone calls - and so did the WTOC newsroom - as rumors circulated about an active shooter on the Truman Parkway. Those reports were not true, but police say false reports like that can be more dangerous than you may realize.
"It's analogous to shouting fire in a movie theater," said Maj. Larry Branson, SCMPD.
And like a fire, information can spread quickly on social media, whether that information is accurate or not. Speculation swirled on Wednesday about an alleged shooter on the Truman Parkway, as posts on Facebook spiraled into text messages and phone calls.
"We probably got 40 calls. It is a tremendous effort to try to run down social media issues," said Police Chief Jack Lumpkin.
And it could be a matter of public safety. An officer responding to a false report means one less officer on patrol or available to respond to a legitimate threat somewhere else.
"Those resources could more productively, more wisely be used to provide services within our neighborhoods, which is where we need policemen," said Maj. Branson.
That being said, social media has also become a useful tool for police when it comes to keeping a pulse on the community. But Maj. Branson says Facebook and Twitter are not the end-all-be-all. If you're unsure of something, check with police. Do not spread information you're unsure about.
"If we get one call, 'Hey, I hear there's something going on over here.' And we get no other calls on it, we're still going to come and check it out. But we want to guard against is terrifying people, because there is so much going on around this country, around this world today. We don't want to add fuel to the fear," said Maj. Branson.
Police are aware that criminals often use major roads like the Truman. Maj. Branson told WTOC they've increased presence and enforcement on that parkway.
Thursday, Chief Lumpkin said - in the long term - he would like to monitor the Truman even more closely.
"I would love to have a license plate reader on every entrance and exit of it, and it will prevent it from being a crime corridor," said Chief Lumpkin.
He said they're developing a plan to step-up enforcement on all major thoroughfares in the city.