Earlier this month, the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Department in Manchester, United Kingdom, set up a new application on the popular social networking site Facebook. The application delivers police news in real time to active users—or “friends”—and also gives users a single destination to report anonymous tips.
As technology progresses, law enforcement agencies are coming up with new ways to harness technology to solve crimes. This new application also involves younger members of the community while doing it. Many Facebook users check the site several times a day, even from mobile phones. Applications like the GMP’s make it easier for Facebook users to report crimes as they happen, thus making it easier for law enforcement to catch those criminals quickly and efficiently. These applications also make it easier for community members to get more involved in preventing crimes in their community. As an AMBER Alert goes out to users, 161 extra pairs of eyes (the current number of users of the GMP application) are out there looking for the suspected kidnapper, without having to wait for an evening news broadcast.
Toronto Crime Stoppers has also set up a page on YouTube to ask for tips on unsolved cases. One such case was an ongoing human-trafficking investigation, and appeals from a Russian-speaking officer resulted in several tips that helped police make an arrest. Constable Scott Mills, a Toronto Crime Stoppers schools officer, also has a Facebook account that he uses to communicate with the kids he meets on school visits. “We have to use the Internet as a violence-prevention tool, not just to go out there and ask for tips,” says Mills. He cites a Facebook posting that helped police thwart a school stabbing last year.
Programs like this one can also set up better crime-mapping of neighborhoods. Two students at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee set up a Facebook blog to report crimes, mostly armed robberies, in campus neighborhoods. The blog has 700 members who read and report crimes in real time, pinpointing them to the exact street address. One student, in an interview to WISN News, said, “I think that if everybody comes together and really starts working together, we can hopefully stop this from going around.”
Everybody coming together to prevent crimes—now that’s a great idea.