We all know the benefits of social media and its ability to bring people together, advertise a product, share information and let even the smallest voice be heard by the masses. What about a crime solving application? How can policing agencies utilize these social media tools and its untapped potential to their benefit. Could social media be the best detective you’ve never had? Could it be the ultimate superhero, crime solving and maybe even crime preventing machine?
Policing agencies have become very active online with the use of Facebook and Twitter mostly to promote an open and friendly dialogue with their communities. The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) specifically has constructed a very informative and user-friendly website in addition to its Ottawa Police app. These tools give its citizens an incredible amount of access to information regarding issues, awareness campaigns, crime trends and even up to the minute traffic disruptions.
Imagine if every member of the community with a smart phone followed OPS on Twitter and was able to receive broadcasts from the police service. You could be made aware of a trend in your neighborhood regarding break-ins, bike thefts or thefts from vehicles. You could help put an end to a crime trend in your neighborhood by being warned or reminded to lock your doors and remove all valuables from plain view. Whenever an individual is wanted by police, his or her photograph could be sent out over social media for its citizens to be on the look out. A perfect example of this was the case of Ian Bush, a man who viciously attacked a 101 yr old WWII veteran during a home invasion. Police used social media to broadcast Bush’s photographs in search of anyone that could identify him. This proved to be successful as Bush was quickly identified, arrested and later charged with an almost 10 yr old triple homicide.
Crime stoppers, neighborhood watch and other community organizations have been in existence for quite some time and have proven to be valuable. With the level of connectivity that social media offers, we should be able to seamlessly join forces to make these programs much more effective. As a police officer and a citizen of my community I am always diligent of what is taking place within my neighborhood as are my neighbors. I can think of no better way to help keep the streets safe for everyone, after all the police are nothing without the support of their community.