December 3, 2023

Steve Johnson, a Riverside resident, created a Facebook group called “What’s Going on In Riverside County,” which is intended to inform residents of Riverside County about events and incidents happening locally.

What started out as a hobby grew into a Facebook group with  more than 143,000 members.

“Me and a friend of mine would update friends on our personal Facebook pages about things happening in the area,” Johnson said. “I started building connections with firefighters and police officers through fundraisers of which I was a part, and it kind of evolved from that.”

The group was created Aug. 29, 2013, with 800 members- the personal friends of Johnson.

Any member is allowed to post content to the group but the content must be approved by one of six moderators who can verify the information is true and accurate.

“We’ve had people try to post things that were completely not true,” Johnson said. “Someone tried to say there was a bomb threat at an elementary school once but we have connections to law enforcement so when I saw the post, I contacted a source, who said that wasn’t happening and so we rejected the post.”

The most common posts are local events, traffic incidents and reports of crime. The purpose of crime reporting in the group is to raise awareness of a crime and to give members a way to bring forward any information they may have pertaining to the incident, and the group has helped local law enforcement solve problems.

While news is the main focus of the group, Johnson said he also ensures there are uplifting posts to go along with the more serious posts.

There are people from a variety of different professions and backgrounds in the group, including city officials, reporters and college students.

Joseph Gonzalez, first-year counseling psychology graduate student at California Baptist University said that he joined the group after he saw video of a fire in Riverside while scrolling through his feed.

It turned out the fire was a car junk yard set on fire.

Gonzalez said he enjoyed the group and has benefitted from it because he gets to look at Riverside county through the eyes of it’s residents.

Gonzalez said he believes other students can benefit from the group for this reason, as well and the group is good for students who are not familiar with the area.

“This is a source to better understand what is around this little bubble that is our university,” Gonzalez said. “It’s different the moment you step off campus but you don’t have to feel clueless.

“This group gives you ways to get to know the places to be or new places that just opened. ”

With the success of Johnson’s group, similar groups have formed such as “What’s Happening in Riverside County,” and “What Is Really Going on in Riverside County.”

Johnson is one of many local examples of how hobbies can sometimes turn into major successes.

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