The Hesperia sheriff's station is reaching out to residents through an Internet social networking site, making public announcements via Twitter.

Twitter allows users to send short messages of up to 140 characters in length -- the maximum length of a text message sent from a cellular telephone -- and receive messages on computers or cellular telephones. (Would-be users have to sign up for a free account on Twitter.com.)

"I was watching CNN," said San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Ken Lutz, the Hesperia station's day shift weekend watch commander. "[Actor] Ashton Kutcher had a bet with CNN over who could first get a million people to [follow his Twitter] account."

Kutcher made it to 1 million Twitter followers -- as of July 16, he has 2,794,956 followers -- who receive every update he makes to his twitter.com/aplusk account, whether it's about his new favorite shoes or talking about the status of a movie he's filming.

"I started thinking 'we have a large commuter community,'" Lutz said. "A lot of them, I imagine, check the road conditions [online] before they leave the office, but they really don't have the ability to check conditions once they're on the road," particularly as they cross over between Los Angeles and Inland Empire radio station coverage areas.

Lutz thought Twitter updates from twitter.com/hesperiapolice to a user's cell phone might be the best way to get the word out if, say, the Cajon Pass was closed due to a major accident.

"If something goes down, that we can give a little more information out to the public. They don't have to rely on the radio or the newspaper, because it goes out instantly to your cell phone as a text message."

The City of Hesperia Web site will also include a link to the station's Twitter feed once the site is revised.

"Captain [Lance] Clark has been behind anything that gets out more information out to the public," Lutz said. "Theoretically, we could even get a city-wide amber alert out."

At the moment, only Lutz and station spokeswoman Roxanne Walker are tweeting -- the term for sending out a message via Twitter.

"The nice thing is that we can access this from our patrol car ... or, in my case, from my cell phone," Lutz said.

Eventually the various watch commanders will also be sending out messages as needed.

"We don't expect our watch commanders to do something in the heat of battle, but once the dust settles, go ahead, just like sending out a press release."

(The Hesperia Star also has its own Twitter account: twitter.com/hesperiastar, featuring links to articles and as-it-happens reports from government meetings. The Victorville Daily Press also has its own Twitter account: twitter.com/VVDailyPress.)

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.