Meet the team behind the Dartmouth Police Department's viral videos

Aug 5, 2018

It’s been a busy four years for the Dartmouth Police Department and Dartmouth Community Television. The two agencies saved Christmas from the grinch, busted the creepy clown fad, and investigated some “strange” happenings around town.

Okay, not really — but those are the subjects of some of the most successful videos produced through a partnership established between the two agencies to boost community involvement with police. With millions of views, Facebook likes, and media attention to show for it, plans are already in the works for new ideas.

It all started with a visit to DCTV by Dartmouth Police Det. Kyle Costa four years ago. He was looking for ways to show the human side of the department on its newly established Facebook page.

DCTV produced a long-running talk and news show, Police Line, hosted by Officer Dave Mello in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was set up as an interview-style show, but Costa had a different vision for a new collaboration.

“The format was very very different,” said Dr. Cynthia Marland, Director of DCTV. “They were typical interviews with cutaway shots, whereas this venue is totally different and really captures the wider audience.”

For their first big project, Costa and DCTV producers bounced ideas for a Christmas video back and forth, and decided on catching the grinch in the act of attempting to steal Christmas in a Cops parody.

The video launched in December 2015, and racked up millions of views on Facebook and YouTube, and was picked up by national and international media outlets at a time when tension had built between police departments and the public across the country.

“I believe that was the year there was a lot of police tension, a lot of bad police press,” said DCTV Operations Coordinator Mike Moniz. “When Kyle came in we were trying to lighten the mood but bring a different perspective of police. There’s a little comedy but it’s a serious job and it’s an intense job.”

Since then, the department has produced a parody of The First 48 chronicling a hit-and-run investigation of a grandma (spoiler: she was run over by a reindeer), Stranger Things happenings around town, and the “creepy clown” craze which went viral last year.

“Videos really get a message across, I think, a lot better than words can,” Costa said. “We’re in a society now which is based on visual more than anything. It’s why we try to incorporate a lot of the videos because it gets the point across quicker and it resonates stronger.”

It’s allowed the department to show the human side of police.

“I really think these guys were one of the first to really push this venue out,” Marland said. “You didn’t really see a lot about police. There was some negativity in terms of how people thought about police officers, and these guys just turned that all around.”

The partnership has also boosted the department’s presence on Facebook. In 2016, just after the first viral video, the page had 4,500 followers. Today, nearly 22,000 people follow the page. Costa said 90 to 95 percent of crimes posted on its Facebook page are solved.

The department’s most recent video — a heartfelt tribute to police officers killed in the line of duty — gained millions of views and press attention. Although a Christmas video is in the works, it’s still in the early planning stages and top secret.

Going forward, the department and DCTV are planning a public service announcement blitz, particularly around traffic safety. With PSAs like a prom safety video already done last year, upcoming topics will include speeding and other traffic concerns. It’s a valuable — and cost-effective — way to get the message across.

“This doesn't cost us a thing,” Costa said. “Everybody either volunteers or it’s done on company time,” he said, noting many of the videos do not take long to produce — sometimes less than an hour.