This time last year, the dust was just beginning to settle on the London riots, and many commentators had already begun discussing the disruptive role that social media played in mobilising those involved in causing the unrest. But today I want to look at the other side and ask how the police stepped up to meet the challenge, and how they’ve done in the year since.
At the time of the riots, while some police forces did make great use of social media, on a whole, it’s fair to say the old bill didn’t make full use of the platforms available.
Fast forward to 2012 and it’s a completely different story. Many police forces across the UK and US have got to grips with social, and have developed a number of innovative strategies to monitor and engage with a wide range of users on…ahem… ‘both’ sides of the law. So that’s everything from a pat on the back thank you to a tip off on social or two years behind bars for the posting of a compromising photo.
Here at Yomego, we often refer to social media as‘the world’s biggest, 24 hour focus group’. What we highlight to brands is that whether you like it or not, people are talking about you online. So brands need to use the tools available to monitor this conversation and draw relevant insight.
The same applies for the police.
People (and often, amusingly, criminals – see below) still forget that social media CAN be monitored and thankfully, the police have been making use of the tools available to solve crimes and catch offenders. In the US, a 20-year-old Kentucky man, for example, was arrested on a misdemeanour charge after he posted a photo of himself on Facebook
syphoning petrol from a police cruiser. In the UK, police have managed to discover hundreds of smuggled mobile phones thanks to pictures and updates posted on social networks, including the phone used by an inmate to take the picture below of three violent Scottish criminals in HMP Kilmarnock.
Police forces across the globe are also making great use of social media to educate citizens. With social media
accounting for 22% of time spent online, it is convenient for the police to engage users on a place where they are spending a high proportion of their time. Staffordshire Police are really leading the way here, using a range of platforms and different types of media to educate those living in its constabulary. Recent campaigns include #behindbarslive, where the force gave Twitter followers a unique insight into life behind the bars of Staffordshire Police’s busiest custody centre through live tweets. The force also uses YouTube to educate citizens on a range of issues, from how forensic data is analysed to what it’s like to be processed in custody (see video below).
Forces are also making use of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to keep citizens up to date and appeal for information. With police forces under-resourced, uploading CCTV videos to social media and appealing for help has proven successful. Police are beginning to become even more localised, with senior officers and specific departments posting and engaging from individual accounts. Kim Gregory,
online journalist at Essex Police, shared its success in using social to help with the search to find a missing elderly woman with dementia, the arrest and charge of a prolific shoplifter and the arrest of a dog walker, whose out-of-control Rottweiler attacked a young boy as he was paddling in the sea. She praises the community’s engagement on social, claiming that they are there; ready to help spread the word and help police whenever required.
Although I’ve highlighted the unparalleled access to conversations that social gives to police forces to help solve crimes, sometimes bungling criminals like to make things that bit easier for them. One stellar
example is a criminal in Philadelphia who stopped mid-crime to check up on his Facebook status on his victim’s laptop, then forgot to either steal the laptop or log off from his account. SERIOUSLY....?
From client insight manager John Paul @johnpaulfox @yomegosocial
If you are in Glasgow during Social Media Week, why not attend our event 'Social in the community – the voices that keep Glasgow going ' on the 25 th of September at 10am in The Lighthouse. The event will be a compered panel discussion with some of the leading presences in public sector social media around Glasgow. By speaking with the organisations that keep the city moving smoothly - and that look at metrics other than sales – there should be lessons here for every organisation that’s keen to build engagement.