Albany police go viral to combat virus
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Albany police go viral to combat virus

Since COVID-19 reached the mid-valley, emergency services have looked a little different. Police and fire personnel arrive to calls in full personal protective equipment. The lobby in both Albany buildings is closed and most business must be done over the phone. 

And inside the departments, things have strayed even further from business as usual. 

Toilet paper, a hot commodity during the state's shelter in place efforts, is made of chocolate cake. And officers, when they're not patrolling, are now social media sensations, by way of pop stars. 

"We started doing them because we are trying to reach out to all demographics and, in all honesty, show people we are human," said Crime Prevention Specialist Laura Hawkins of the department's entry into the world of TikTok.

The app allows users to create short videos, sometimes pairing them with popular songs to give the illusion that lip syncing into an iPhone is the same as belting it out on stage. 

"We didn’t know it would be such a huge hit," Hawkins said. "Someone just sent me a screenshot of our account vs. LAPD and we have five times as many followers and its four million population vs 53,000 (in Albany) respectively."

The videos range from officers readying to patrol in a golf cart singing along to a satirical version of "Sweet Child of Mine" to a knock-off Top 10 hit converted into coronavirus tips. Officers are seen washing down the station, wiping down desks and using sanitizer on every surface as they sing along. 

"Then, the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic hit and we found it was a great way to get a message out, like wash your hands, social distancing etc. and do it in an lighter way that provided some levity in scary times," Hawkins said. "People are worried, we get that." 

The effort to keep people informed via TikTok follows the department's work to get people to lock their doors and turn on their lights at 9 p.m. That campaign saw popular memes posted to the department's Facebook page, reminding everyone to engage in the "9 p.m. routine." 

Hawkins said outreach is a team sport in the department, though she's heading the development of each carefully curated TikTok video; grabbing officers who are available and using her iPhone to capture video on the app. 

"We just want people to know we are here for them and will come when called because that’s what we do but a little humor eases the stress," she said. "I think we could all use a little of that."

To view the department's TikTok videos, visit APD's Facebook page or, if you have TikTok, search @apdsocial. 

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