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LATEST THINKING


Harnessing the power of social media to fight crime

With the right strategy, social media will become an important interface between the police and the public and a significant crime-fighting tool.

Overview

Social media now dominates modern life – it is estimated that more than 15 per cent of the world’s population are Facebook users. Our virtual networks are larger, more diverse and sometimes better organised than our face-to-face relationships – and are not restricted by time or location.



Background

Many citizens now live their lives through social media, making an incredible amount of detailed information available to police, creating online evidence trails and providing witnesses to crimes. Evidence available online can be sophisticated – the metadata attached to entries often includes the timestamp, device used, and geolocation of the post.

Social media analytics tools can review vast amounts of social media data to uncover patterns and analyse sentiment. By capturing open source intelligence and analysing it, agencies can more adeptly discover trends and monitor threats as they grow in significance, enabling early preventative policing.

Analysis

As a weapon for the police, social media provides:

  • Public reassurance: social media tools can be used to provide policing information to the public.

  • Two-way citizen communication: Accenture Research shows that 88 per cent of the public feel they are an important participant in crime-fighting.

  • A crime-fighting tool: Social media and associated technologies can be used for fighting crime and aiding investigations directly.

Recommendations

Utilising new technologies, both from within and external to policing, will be key to the police harnessing the potential of social media to fight crime. Social media is already being utilised by the criminal world – as such it should be a critical tool in policing’s tactical armoury. With the right strategy, social media will become both an important interface between the police and the public and a significant crime-fighting tool.