Social Media - Reporting Crime
While social networking may have started off as a convenient way to connect with friends and family, it is now a primary method of communication among our society. With sites like Twitter and Facebook a household name, people are discovering new ways to use social networking to their benefit—including as a means to report and reduce crime in their communities.
From small groups of neighbors who live within the same cul-de-sac to law officials of entire police departments, more and more citizens and law enforcement agencies are using social networking to reduce crime and keep their communities safe.
As reported in an article published by StatesmanJournal.com, a Gannett Company, the Salem, Oregon police department is now using Twitter to post crime prevention messages. The purpose of the posts is to help educate Salem's local residents and keep them safe by updating them on local criminal activity and trends.
If you've never used it, Twitter is a convenient online social media service that allows its users to send and receive messages to and from their mobile phones and/or email accounts. With a limit of 140 characters per message, many people find Twitter to be a convenient way to keep themselves and others informed of the most current news. It is not uncommon for Twitter users to receive messages about important events before they are reported by local news stations. This was the case when Michael Jackson died and when the devastating earthquake in China hit.
With social networking offering an easy and essentially instant method of communication, more and more communities are beginning to realize the benefits of using social networking as a means to keep their local residents informed about crime. The following are a few of those important benefits:
- By adding pre-approved security vendors from the community, residents can receive messages about discounts on alarm systems and other home security devices that are of importance to them.
- Social networking keeps residents aware of the level of crime occurring among surrounding communities. This encourages people to remain vigilant and helps bring the community together as one.
- Reporting a suspicious person, car, or activity in writing the moment it happens aids police in their investigations. Taking a photo and posting it to a social networking account can also serve as important evidence.
- Residents are able to alert their neighbors and other members of the community of any suspicious people and activities at a moment's notice using today's primary methods of communication—mobile phone text messaging and email.
- It helps reduce the burden on the local police department, as the messages residents post help them prioritize the crimes and the need to respond. For example, a report on suspected burglary in progress would take priority over a complaint about a solicitor or minor vandalism.
- Setting up a Twitter or Facebook account page helps members of Neighborhood Watch programs keep each other informed of upcoming meetings and other community news. This also provides an easy way to link to and communicate with other local Neighborhood Watch pages, police departments, and community recreation centers and organizations.
Using social networking as a means to keep local residents, law officials, and other organizations within the community updated on crime and other activities within the community works to everyone's advantage. However, when setting up a crime-watch account, it's important to ensure the safety and security of the account members. This can be achieved by following a few simple social networking rules:
- Create, implement, and enforce rules/guidelines for account members to follow in terms of the messages they post. This will help prevent the account from being used for personal means other than its true purpose.
- Ensure only residents of the neighborhood or community the account is set up for are accepted as members/followers. Residents should be required to provide proof of residency before they are added to the account.
- Add your local police department as an account member. If they don't have a Twitter or Facebook account, share the benefits of collaborating through social networking and how it can be used to reduce crime and keep the residents of the community safe.
- If the account services a large neighborhood or community, ensure everyone understands the importance of keeping their private information private. Members should avoid sharing when they will be away on vacation, that they live alone, and other personal information that can make them targets for a home crime.
With more than 300 million users on Twitter and over 845 million people on Facebook, the foundation for creating safer communities is already in place. All it takes is for someone within the community to get the ball rolling—someone like you!
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