News Column

How Social Media's Helping Fight Crime

July 12, 2013

How social media's helping fight crime ; Social media is playing an ever increasing role in the world today. Reporter RICHARD SHARPE (@rich_scuntel) looked at how Twitter is being used by Police in the fight against crime

A TWITTER novice by his own admission last year, neighbourhood police sergeant James Main - or @SgtJames-Main as he is now better known - has gone on to amass more than 5,500 followers on the social media website.

It was in April last year when the force asked for a volunteer from each division to step forward and use a Twitter account on behalf of Humberside Police.

The success of the account can be judged plainly on evidence from just last week.

We appealed for people to come forward to help trace 16 people wanted in connection with disturbances at Scunthorpe United's final home fixture against Swindon Town. Sergeant Main said: Some names, for example for the football disorder, have been passed through the social media channel.

But the success of the account was almost instant.

Shortly after going live with the account we had a case of a fairly nasty assault in Scunthorpe, he said.

One of the investigating officers asked me to tweet the details and appeal for witnesses. Within 15 minutes of doing so, we had information on two of the offenders and the make, type and registration of a car used by the offenders that someone had recorded as it had looked odd at the time.

But did he always think his account would have the success it has had? At the start, I did not know how it would go, but was amazed at the uptake we had in followers in such a short period of time, he said.

But it is clear that people are very interested in the work of the modern day police and happy to interact.

Personally, I did not realise just how powerful it would be using Twitter, but the speed information and appeals can be done has helped and it is an excellent method of engagement and for showing a virtual human face of policing.

Sergeant Main said the role of Twitter was an important tool to help engage with the public - but far from the only one. It is an ideal means to communicate instant messages, be it missing people - especially children - accidents and road issues, but at the same time ensure we keep a human face to the process.

This is a view shared by Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Grove (@HumbersidePCC).

What we must not do is miss out on the much more traditional methods, such as keeping our police station front desks open for longer so we can get the vital information from the public, he said.

FOLLOWED: Perry and Obama Humberside Police chief constable Justine Curran @CCHumberside said: When you look at the number of people who are using social media as a tool for communicating, it is clear that it is an important way to engage with our communities.

Sergeant Main said Twitter was very good at engaging with younger people who are often hard to reach.

He also said the time it takes to send out a tweet and the amount of people it can reach was vital.

Follow the Scunthorpe Telegraph Twitter account @Scun-Telegraph for all the latest news from North Lincolnshire and like our pages on Facebook - search for Scunthorpe Telegraph.

Messages in 140 characters What is Twitter? In plain English, it is a website that allows people to send out short, 140-character messages, known as tweets. Users follow anyone they like - unlike Facebook - and are followed by anyone who wants to read their tweets.

When was it launched? Twitter was launched in 2006. How many people use it? As of last year, there were more than 500 million registered users, generating more than 340 million tweets daily and handling more than 1.6 billion search queries per day.

Who are the top five followed people on Twitter? 1 Justin Bieber - 41.3 million followers 2 Lady Gaga - 38.8m 3 Katy Perry - 38.7m 4 Barack Obama - 33.4m 5. Rihanna - 30.3m

I did not realise just how powerful it would be using Twitter, but the speed information and appeals can be done has helped James Main


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Source: Copyright Grimsby Telegraph (UK) 2013.