A while back, we gave a pretty comprehensive analysis of the history and current development of social media within the UK Police Force. Social media is being adopted widely throughout the UK forces, with varying degrees of success and expertise: our aim in the article was to review what was working well and articulate the potential risks unless systematic guidelines are adapted across the different forces.
Now to to turn our attention to the other side of the Atlantic. For a quick glance at how the US police (state, federal and local agencies) are solving crime with social media, see the infographic below.
The US police are solving crimes by using social media to:
- identify people and locations
- gather evidence
- improve the flow of information to and from the communities they police via outreach programmes
- monitor and reveal planned and actual criminal activity
In relation to that last point: we frequently warn people not to put anything online which they wouldn’t say to a journalist, their Mum, or a future employer. Or, we suppose, the police. But luckily, those pesky criminals just won’t learn. In a grocery store shoplifting case in Connecticut, police went on the thief’s Facebook page and found photos of him holding firearms. “While someone may not rob a bank and check in there, we have seen at least one case where someone broke into a house and checked in to Facebook while he was there, and didn’t check out,” said Lauri Stevens, principal at LAwS Communications, an organization that provides interactive media advice to law enforcement. One respondent to the survey below said: “Targets brag and post illicit valuable information in reference to travel, hobbies, places visited, functions, appointments, circle of friends, family members, relationships, actions etc.”
Let’s take a look at the reasons why some agencies aren’t using social media:
- 37 percent of respondents who aren’t using it are not permitted access during work hours.
- 12 percent say it’s against their agency policy.
- A whopping third of non-users don’t believe they have enough knowledge to use social media properly.
And yet, the overwhelming majority of those not using it, do believe that the information is useful.
With such diversity, it looks like the US forces are in need of a comprehensive policy toward, and training in, social media?