How Social Media Helps Law Enforcement

The public finds crime shows interesting.  CSI: Crime Scene Investigation has been on TV since 2000, an amazing amount of time for TV shows these days, which sometimes are canceled halfway the first season.  On the same note, 11 Million people follow the TV series Bones on Facebook.  So it might also stand to reason that the public would also want to participate in following and helping to solve real life crimes for law enforcement.

Real-Day Involvement

According to a recent study by Accenture, 92% of people in six countries want to help their police force.  88% felt that they could play an important role in solving crime.  So, are police forces and other agencies doing a good job of engaging these citizens for the benefit of public safety?  The same study says no.  Only 16% of respondents felt like they were well informed by law enforcement agencies.  The conclusion, citizens demand more use of digital and social media by police.

Police are taking notice

This is not to say that law enforcement is not taking notice.  At the 2012 International Association of Chief of Police conference in San Diego, social media and law enforcement were a conversation topic.  The conference discussion encouraged agencies to just get started using social media as a tool.  Many already use traditional one-way channels like TV, radio, and newspapers.  Yet, fewer use social media like Facebook, Twitter, websites, and apps.

Captain Mike Parker, PIO of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office stated, “Engage in social media before the crisis”.  He also talked about how fast things go viral on Twitter.  It used to take quite awhile for things to go viral through TV.  But now,  from his 4,500 followers on Twitter, crime goes viral in a manner of minutes.  The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department even added an officer on staff, just to monitor social media.

Social Media Damage Control

Not only can social media be monitored for hints of where crime is happening, it can also be used for damage control and public education.  The more informed the public can be during a crisis situation, the safer they feel and most often times are.  So, using social media to put out a public response after a crime has happened, becomes equally important.

Social Media Crisis Management for Colleges

This type of crime fighting technique has become commonplace on college campuses as well, especially after the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007.  Jeanna Mastrodicasa, assistant vice president for student affairs at the University of Florida, wrote a thesis called New Directions for Student Services soon after the Virginia Tech crisis happened.  She noted that responding to a crisis on campus falls to several departments including media relations, university police, the president, and student affairs.  Mastrodicasa said that using E-mail, Text Messaging, Facebook, and blogging could all be effective crisis communication tools – as long as messages were not sent too often.  If messages are sent too often, studies show that people start to ignore the message.

In another dissertation by Christina M. Jackson in 2011, she stated:
Social media have changed how crisis communications are performed. Social media is not a replacement, but an integral addition to other methods of communication in the crisis communicator’s toolbox, delivering crisis information to a large group almost instantaneously. 

Social media is constantly being integrated into every day traditional process keep up with all of these changes Eric Wagner Marketing.

  Pic Credits: freefotouk & Metropolitan Police

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Eric Wagner

Eric is a CEO with a background in marketing and search engine optimization specialist (SEO). In his free time, Eric enjoys exercise, gardening, technology, a good book, and spending time with family and friends.

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