Case Studies

PGPD Game Time

It had the ingredients for a traffic disaster: a Monday evening rush hour on the notoriously clogged Capital Beltway combined with a 7:05 pm kick-off for the Washington Redskins’ 2013 season home opener in Landover, Maryland.

But the Prince George’s County Police Department, whose headquarters borders FedEx Field, home of the Redskins’ stadium, decided to tackle the traffic challenge head-on. The department’s Media Relations Division developed a plan to inform the community about one of the most talked about topics in the Washington, DC area on any day of the year: traffic. The PGPD created “Game Time,” an information-sharing social media event. The department began tweeting on the Friday before the Monday Night Football game against the Redskins’ nearby NFC East rival the Philadelphia Eagles. Using the hashtag #GameTime, one member of the Media Relations Division coordinated with the police department’s Special Operations Division, which oversees all events at FedEx Field, to determine which information and images to tweet and when.

NFL games are major events for the PGPD with some 200 officers handling security and traffic. There is a large control room within FedEx Field where the Special Ops commanders keep a watchful eye on activities both in and around the stadium. Relying on a large bank of traffic cameras surveying the major arteries near the 90,000-person stadium, the Media Relations Division was able to see and then share traffic news in real time as the 7:05pm kickoff approached.

Various local media outlets gave advance coverage to “Game Time”, advising viewers, listeners and reader that the police department’s Twitter handle, @PGPDNews, would be tweeting traffic news during the potentially disastrous evening commute. This included the widely-followed The Washington Post’s traffic Twitter handle, @DrGridlock.

To maintain the momentum of the media coverage and to help game-goers plan, Media Relations began tweeting #GameTime news at about 3:30pm, 3 1/2 hours before the game began. In an attempt to crowd source traffic information, the PGPD solicited commuter input & specifically tried to discourage the notion of having drivers tweeting while behind the wheel:

At about 5 pm, this basic tweet prompted 12 retweets, or sharing of the police department’s message:

The Department’s message was spreading:

A parking logistics coordinator working for the Washington Redskins noted during the event it seemed to him the advance media coverage and the possibility of gridlock might be having an effect – not just on game attendees but on rush hour commuters as well. The parking lots, both he and police commanders noted, were filling up much earlier than expected.

The major roadways were far less congested than expected as kick-off neared. Drivers had planned ahead and arrived at the stadium well in advance.

A PGPD Special Operations Division helicopter flying above the stadium offered aerial images of traffic and the parking lots. Those tweets generated a lot of retweets, indicating the appetite for information included an appreciation for social media aesthetics.

In addition to the media coverage generated by the event, the PGPD advertised for “Game Time” in the days leading up to the game on Twitter, since that’s where the event would take place. However, to encourage crossover followers, the event was also advertised on the department’s Facebook page.

What ticket holders and commuters alike took away from the “Game Time” experience isn’t easily measured. Based on media coverage, the 38 new @PGPDNews followers gained that day and positive response from existing @PGPDNews followers, the department deemed the event a success.

The next similar event is planned for the week before Thanksgiving. Look for @PGPDNews to host #OperationOutlets on November 22, 2013. The grand opening for a new outlets mall in Prince George’s County is expected to draw more than 20,000 visitors and could lead to traffic tie-ups. To try and prevent that, the PGPD’s Special Operations Division’s Traffic Enforcement Unit and the Media Relations Division will again team up, returning to Twitter to once again keep citizens informed.

Julie Parker serves as the Director of the Media Relations Division for the Prince George’s County (MD) Police Department, the nation’s 28th largest law enforcement agency. The PGPD straddles Washington, D.C. and spans 500 square miles of urban, suburban, and rural populations. Prince George’s County is home to the University of Maryland at College Park, the Washington Redskins, and NASA headquarters with an approximate population of 900,000. Parker serves as principal communications advisor to the Chief of Police & other executive command staff and is responsible for key messages and media strategy, to include during crisis situations. She promotes and achieves positive news stories at an unprecedented level for this police department. Parker manages a 13-person division comprised of sworn and civilian public information officers, video production specialists, graphic designer, Crime Solvers coordinator and special projects professional. Parker is also a frequent guest lecturer at the FBI National Academy on law enforcement media relations and crisis communications. She’s a recognized leader in using social media for innovative community outreach, media relations, crisis communications, targeted branding and messaging. Parker spent 13 years reporting and anchoring in Washington, DC, most recently for ABC7 News where she won both an Emmy Award and an Edward R. Murrow Award.

ConncectedCOPS Awards 2013: Finalists for Social Media Campaign

ConnectedCOPS Social Media Campaign

This award will go to the law enforcement agency which has met its stated goals with a documented social media campaign. The campaign is designed to address a significant problem or educational issue within the agency’s jurisdiction. Nominations should include a description of how success was measured.

The finalists in the Social Media in Campaign Management category have proactively and strategically designed a campaign with social media having a significant part. They have carried out the plan and achieved the goals set forth.

There are three finalists in this category:

North Yorkshire Police, United Kingdom
The North Yorkshire Police (NYP) were nominated for their success with two separate social media campaigns. With its #TeamNYP campaign, the NYP grew its engagement with citizens significantly. The plan was strategically combined with traditional communication methods to draw more views to the force’s website and other content. A key piece of the project was the redesign of the home page of the force website featuring live social media content. With a separate campaign focused on mobile technology and a goal of reducing burglaries, the NYP created an iBook campaign for iPad users. The iBook is called “Securing your home” and features chapters on bogus callers, burglary prevention, property marking, vehicle security and rural crime. The project was such a success that more iBooks are forthcoming and several other UK forces are looking to the NYP for their leadership.

Waterloo Regional Police, Ontario, Canada
With a goal of engaging youth, building awareness and stimulating dialogue surrounding gang prevention, the Waterloo Regional Police (WRPS) created the “8 Days of SWAG” social media campaign. The campaign and its social media profiles were deliberately branded separate from the Waterloo Regional Police Service based on a perceived notion that if youth knew who would be hosting the campaign, they would be less likely to participate. Each day was assigned a theme, as a way to organize the broad topic of “gangs” and prizes were awarded every day. By the end of the 8 Days of SWAG campaign, the WRPS had engaged over 650 participants which in turn reached more than 83 thousand Twitter accounts. On Facebook, they reached over 5,400 people, of which 68% were between ages of 13 and 24. WRPS received numerous requests from students, asking them to visit their school, as well as requests to continue the campaign next year.

Collier County Sheriff, Florida, United States
In November 2012, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) launched an ambitious multi-faceted public safety campaign aimed at bringing about a law that would make it illegal to text-message while driving in Florida. “Stop Texting & Driving” was a community-based, grass roots movement to address the growing demand for Florida to join the 39 states that have declared it illegal for drivers to text behind the wheel. Through their website, PSA’s and social media, citizens were asked to sign a call to action in support of anti-texting legislation. The Sheriff also invited community members to share their texting and driving experiences on the CSCO social media platforms. More than 150 people posted messages, many of which were heartbreaking, about how their lives had been affected by someone who was text-messaging while driving. Most significantly, Gov Rick Scott signed legislations on May 28th that makes it illegal to text-message while driving in Florida.

Finalists in the other awards categories will be announced throughout this week on this blog. Check back to see the finalists for Top Cop tomorrow. Winners will be announced September 25th at The SMILE Conference™ in Omaha, Nebraska.

Finalists previously announced:

The ConnectedCOPS Awards were created by LAwS Communications with the intent of recognizing the good work being done by individual officers and law enforcement agencies with social media. The international law enforcement community will be considered for these awards. Any officer or agency anywhere in the world is eligible.

Philly Police on Pinterest

The Philadelphia Police Department is always looking for ways to connect with members of our community. Our District Captains hold monthly meetings to ensure that we are addressing the issues that are affecting our citizens. We have foot-beat officers walking through neighborhoods throughout the city so that people can get to know the officers that are serving them. And, we have one of the most prolific social media campaigns of any police department in the country because we recognize the importance of interacting with the citizens that we serve through every available avenue.

To that end, the Philadelphia Police Department is pleased to announce our latest foray in to the social space, Pinterest. The PPD Pinterest account currently has nine boards. The first six are for wanted and recently arrested persons in each of the six police divisions across the city. The three remaining boards are Inside the PPD, Safety and Prevention and Cops in the Community. We expect there will be more boards as time goes on. If you have an idea for a board you would like to see from us, please let us know.

Along with our brand new Pinterest, we are also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Take an active role in reducing crime in Philadelphia by liking, following and subscribing to our social platforms. You can submit a tip via email at, phone at 215-686-tips (8477), text message to PPDTip, and on our website at

Thank you for joining us in the effort to fight crime in the City of Philadelphia.

Getting to know your Nextdoor neighbor in Texas

The Richland Hills Police Department is taking yet another step forward its social media journey. The PD started in 2010 with Facebook and, after attending a SMILE Conference, moved forward with Twitter, a YouTube channel, and a Google Plus account. But there’s a new kid on the block Richland Hills Police have put in their social media repertoire, and it’s called Nextdoor.

Nextdoor is a free program sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch which allows residents to securely connect with each other, local businesses, and the City of Richland Hills. Richland Hills is broken into 5 grids and each grid is a neighborhood. Residents go to and sign up using their address. Nextdoor then goes through a verification process to ensure they know who is applying for an account.

Chief of Police Barbara Childress said, “This doesn’t replace our traditional neighborhood watch program, but it supplements it for people who don’t have time to physically participate. They can now stay up to date with news from the city, crime tips and trends, and get to know their neighbors in a virtual neighborhood.” Chief Childress went on to say, “The program has done exactly what we wanted it to and residents are jumping into this with both feet. We have had residents who have never used other social media platforms get on Nextdoor and start interacting with their neighbors and the police department.”

Nextdoor is loaded with features geared toward allowing neighbors to get to know each other safely. It’s linked to the sex offender database so if a registered sex offender or anyone at that house tries to obtain an account it will deny access. Chief Childress commented, “Neighbors that know each other are a powerful asset to the police. If you know your neighbors vehicles and you see a different car in their driveway, a close neighbor is more likely to call police to investigate.”

This program is designed to build stronger, healthier communities with crime prevention being a byproduct. For more information visit If you would like information about how Richland Hills implemented their program, please contact

Law Enforcement “Tweet-a-Thons”: A Virtual Ride-a-Long

The Guelph Police Service launched its Twitter Social Media engagement platform on November 5th, 2009. Since that time, the service has amassed over 5000 followers through its two main Twitter accounts, @gpsmedia (3156) and @Chief_BLarkin (2281).

The #GPS uses Twitter as a means to:

• Engage community groups and businesses
• Promote the great “face time” work our police officers do on a daily basis
• Solicit service delivery feedback from the community and businesses
• Provide emergency messaging during serious incidents and municipal emergencies
• Create and maintain positive police-youth interactions
• Cross promote and market community partner events

In July 2011, Sergeant Doug Pflug, program creator and GPS’s Media Relations Officer, researched ways to increase followers of his Twitter account when he came across a new article discussing a “Tweet-a-Thon” conducted in Vancouver, B.C., in 2010. Vancouver Police’s Social Media Officer, Constable Anne Longley, recently explained that, “social media has been a very successful way for us to interact with the community that we weren’t able to before. It is interactive. It is not just a way for us to push out a message” (Nguyen, 2012). The Guelph Police Service has since held three Twitter campaigns, offering on-line followers a glimpse of what occurs during a police officer’s typical 10-hour shift.

Tweet-a-Thon – Throughout the past year, the #GPS hosted three Tweet-a-Thons during high call-volume time frames, specifically the annual 2011 Project Safe Semester kick-off and 2011 Project Safe Semester wrap-up and the 2012 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. During these three ten-hour Tweet-a-Thons, Media Relations Officer Pflug tweeted general information about each call for service dispatched to his fellow officers. Most of the complaints concerned public intoxication, noise ordinances, disturbances, and trespassing. “We wanted to give the public real insight into the types of calls we respond to,” explains Sgt. Pflug. “We wanted followers to appreciate how engaged we are while balancing the public’s rights to privacy and other pertinent legislative requirements.” During the Project Safe Semester #PSS2011 campaign, Sgt. Pflug tweeted 164 times and responded to 44 direct messages for the kick-off and he tweeted 108 times and replied to 43 direct messages for the wrap-up.

When the Tweet-a-Thon began, Sergeant Pflug provided followers a basic outline of the geographical locations and boundaries within the City of Guelph:

@gpsmedia #pss2011 call location info: N-4 =downtown, N-3 =entire city south of Wellington, N-1 =west side N-2 is east side both split at Woolwich St”

The tweeted locations remained vague. “We didn’t want people following us around or showing up to potentially dangerous situations, so the information in the tweets will be restricted to neighbourhoods rather than exact locations.” said Sgt. Pflug.

The Tweet-a-Thon Pflug’s frequent tweets highlighted the variety of calls dispatched to officers, hourly cell and prisoner checks, arrests, offences committed, tickets issued for public intoxication, urination, and other offences. At the end of the evening, Sergeant Pflug tweeted:

@gpsmedia EVENING WRAP UP 3:55 am – 193 calls, 12 males, 2 females and 1 youth in custody at GPS HQ @Deputy_BLarkin #pss2011 Thanks for the follows!!”

Following the Tweet-a-Thon, Sgt. Pflug reviewed the results, including several messages from followers and tweet statistics. The Tweet-a-Thon was deemed to be a success. “This new approach provided a great opportunity to engage the social media community and incited several positive and supportive comments.” Below are just a few examples of the positive responses from members of the community:

@SociableGuelph: Fantastic work @GPSmedia @Deputy_BLarkin for tweet-a-thon #pss2011. Amazing work you do for #Guelph – fascinating to follow just one night

@joey_lotion: tweetathon rly showed the high demand on GPS. Thx for making it happen! Hopefully repeated in the future. @gpsmedia @Deputy_BLarkin #pss2011

@karenjconnelly: @gpsmedia Thanks for keeping Guelph safe while the rest of us sleeps! Never forget that you’re our everyday heroes. #pss2011

Sgt. Pflug conducted a supplemental search to determine the potential re-tweet impact from other Twitter members following this real-time event. A “re-tweet” is the re-posting of someone else’s tweet, distinguished by a specific re-tweet icon. Pflug tweeted a serious disturbance call and within a short time, the message was re-tweeted to 21,795 Twitter accounts.

“It’s astonishing that one 140-character message can appear on over 21,795 hand-held devices, tablets, laptops, etc. in just a few moments,” commented Sgt. Pflug. “We credit Twitter messaging and re-tweets for assisting us in locating a missing elderly male in December 2010. His vehicle plate number was tweeted, picked-up by media and broadcasted. A short time later, a radio listener saw his vehicle beside a rural corn field. Police were called and the elderly male was located in a disoriented state. We believe that had he not been found so quickly, he may have easily succumbed to the weather and perished.”

Since this time, the police services in Sarnia and Chatham-Kent have conducted similar law enforcement Tweet-a-Thons, mirroring the successes achieved by their predecessors. Approximately 30 percent of police forces currently have Twitter accounts. “It is yet another tool used to reach out to the community, display transparency, and at the same time, help us do our job.” Said Sgt. Pflug.

Although still in its early stages throughout North America, the concept of social media in law enforcement has proven to be a very good community engagement tool. The Guelph Police Service further utilized Twitter as an information-sharing tool last summer after a large gas leak in a residential neighbourhood, resulting in a near citywide power outage. “Once we confirmed the power was out, we immediately began tweeting messages to followers advising them of the outage and asking they to provide their location and whether or not they were experiencing any interruptions. When your power goes out, so does your phone, TV, computer and radio.

Once the power was restored, many followers expressed their gratitude as everyone seems to have a hand-held device and our tweets kept them up to date in a time of crisis. As a result, we are currently investigating the formal application of Twitter during municipal emergencies as part of the City of Guelph’s Emergency Management Strategy.” said Sgt. Pflug.

Little academic literature exists to effectively measure the impact of social media on policing. However, the emerging benefits has led most police personnel to believe this is not a fad but rather a fixture for police services to efficiently engage the community in times of crisis and buttress positive police-community interactions.

Sergeant Doug Pflug

-Sgt. Douglas Pflug has been the Media Relations Officer for the Guelph Police Service since June 2008. He is the Vice-Chair of the Ontario Media Resource Officers Network. He has lectured in Canada and the United States on the benefits a comprehensive social media platform can provide your police service. If you wish further information or assistance with your “Tweet-a-Thon”, please contact (519) 831-9285, @gpsmedia, or


Nguyen, Linda. “Follow That Force: Cops Take to Twitter”. The Canadian Press. 30 Jun 2012. msnnews. Web. 11 Aug 2012.

CCSO Website Turns Into Storm Central When Weather Threatens

Karie Partington is the Public Affairs Manager at the CCSO

The corporate world is known for using dark websites as a crisis management tool, but the Collier County Sheriff’s Office has developed one specially designed to be a community resource during major storm events.

A ‘dark site’ is a pre-prepared and ready-to-publish site to facilitate information sharing in the event of a crisis or emergency. In this case, the emergency was the growing and rapidly approaching Tropical Storm Isaac.

“I felt it was important to provide our community with comprehensive news and information that would help them not only prepare for the storm and track its approach, but also be a resource afterward by providing specifics about storm damage,” said Sheriff Kevin Rambosk.

Sheriff Rambosk said the website is the first of its kind in Southwest Florida, and possibly the state.

While Isaac ended up tracking westward of Collier County and having a minimal impact locally, it provided the agency with an opportunity to put its dark site to the test.

The site,, offered a live Isaac Tracker through The Weather Channel and weather updates including a map of current weather conditions through There were links to state and local storm-related resources, including the Collier County Emergency Management website and the National Hurricane Center website.

Visitors could also watch CCSO videos about hurricane preparedness and see educational information, including the proper procedures when traffic signals aren’t functioning. The site also offered contact information for area cable, telephone and electricity providers as a resource for citizens needing to report outages.

A customized Google map displayed the six storm shelters that were activated. Had the community received damage, that information, along with road closures and power outages, would have been mapped as well.

Following any major storm event, deputies are among the first people to go out in the weather. CCSO deputies were prepared to shoot photos and video clips of damaged areas as soon as it was safe to deploy into neighborhoods and e-mail them to the agency’s Public Affairs staff to be shared with the community quickly.

Quick access to photos and videos and maps of affected areas is particularly critical in Collier County because hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, when many property owners are up north. Thanks to the photos, videos and maps of damaged areas, finding accurate information on how their neighborhood fared during the storm is as simple as visiting

Importantly, site visitors were still able to reach the agency’s standard website and all of its content via a handy button on the home page. Other buttons provided access to the agency’s Facebook and Twitter pages and its video site,

The site was taken down after Isaac passed Southwest Florida, but it will be activated again the next time a major storm threatens Collier County.

Collier County Sheriff Rambosk Launches Storm Website

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is Storm Central for Tropical Storm Isaac.

In fact, whenever severe weather is approaching the community can now turn to CCSO’s new website.

The site is always viewable at When Collier County experiences a significant storm event, such as Isaac, the website will override the Sheriff’s main website. In the case of Isaac, that override launched Thursday evening.

“Whenever a major weather event is threatening Collier County it is critical to provide information. This new website does just that,” Sheriff Rambosk said. “I’m committed to keeping residents up to date about our emergency preparation. The goal is to have information in the hands of the community so they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their property.”

The website offers a live Isaac Tracker through The Weather Channel and weather updates including a map of current weather conditions through As Collier County begins feeling the impacts of Isaac, it will also feature up-to-date photographs and videos of the storm in action taken by CCSO members out in the field.

There are links to state and local storm-related resources, including the Collier County Emergency Management website and the National Hurricane Center website.

Visitors can watch CCSO videos about hurricane preparedness. There’s also useful information for after a storm, including a map that will display affected areas such as road closures and power outages; and information about curfews and re-entry procedures for residents in affected areas.

There’s educational information including proper procedures when traffic signals aren’t functioning as well as frequently needed phone number before and after a storm ranging from law enforcement to utilities.

There are also links to the CCSO website,, as well as and the agency’s Facebook fan page and Twitter feed.

ConnectedCOPS Awards 2012: Finalists Announced for Social Media Incident Management

The Social Media Incident Management Award is sponsored by Nixle.

The ConnectedCOPS Social Media Incident Management Award is generously sponsored by Nixle. Travis Scott is Vice President of Agency relations at Nixle. He said, “Nixle is proud to be the sponsor of the Social Media Incident Management award because in a world where social media has drastically changed the way that people communicate, it is critical that our local law enforcement and public safety embrace the power of these platforms as well. We at Nixle believe that the winner of this award should be considered a model agency that all other agencies can based their social media strategy on.”

Nominations for this award came from several countries. The finalists in this category are doing extraordinary work managing emergency events. The judges were very impressed with the quality of nominations in this category.

ConnectedCOPS Social Media Incident Management

This award is given to the law enforcement officer or agency anywhere in the world who has used social media to manage and/or influence a public safety/emergency event, whether unforeseen or known. This officer/agency has strategically and successfully implemented social media engagement techniques to positively and effectively communicate public safety information in an urgent or emergency situation.

We have three finalists and they are (in no particular order):

Queensland Police, Australia

The QPS Social Media strategy began in mid-2010 to provide timely and accurate public safety information, and to support operational police in the course of their duties. Later that year, on Christmas Eve, Cyclone Tasha made landfall creating flooding across Queensland. The agency primarily used Facebook and Twitter to keep the people of Queensland up to date with updates averaging every ten minutes. Radio and television stations were directing their audiences to the QPS Facebook page as the official source of information. Social media allowed QPS to transcend traditional communication boundaries, providing a much faster and more efficient service to the media both nationally and internationally via the QPS YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter pages. The robustness of social media sites allowed QPS to distribute high volumes of vital information and to maintain access to that information while many government websites crashed under the sheer weight of user traffic.

New South Wales Police, Australia

In 2012, the state of New South Wales, Australia was subject to severe flooding across the North West and South West of the State over an area twice the size of Texas. The New South Wales Police, having developed Project Eyewatch, used the program to create a range of warning notices during the extreme flooding in the New South Wales area. Project Eyewatch is a platform for the delivery of information to the community of NSW utilising Facebook. The “eyewatch” concept is about penetrating into and engaging the community to identify problems and work on a whole of community solution. In policing terms, this enhances their ability to environmentally scan their communities with a target on 1. Crime Prevention 2. Crime Detection 3. Emergency Management 4. Crisis Management and 5 Counter Terrorism Management. In terms of major emergencies, the State of NSW, through Project Eyewatch and its strategic links to all government response and combat agencies is in a solid position to inform community about emergencies, strategies to combat those emergencies and general safety information, prior to, during and post emergency.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, California

During the 2011 Christmas/New Year’s holiday season, the Los Angeles County area experienced an alarming wake-up call when several fires broke out during a one week period. It was evident early on that the fires were at the hands of a serial arsonist intent on burning everything in his path. Because the incident locations took place in multiple agency jurisdictions, the investigation required investigators from agencies ranging from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department, and members of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Assembling all of the agencies under one Joint Tasks Force was no small task but what was equally impressive was the Joint Information Center established to communicate one unified public message utilizing social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Nixle and agency websites. 

Finalists in the other awards categories will be announced throughout this week on this blog. The Social Media Investigator finalists were announced July 16th. Check back to see the finalists for Excellence in a Large Agency tomorrow. Winners will be announced September 10th at The SMILE Conference™ in Richmond, Virginia.

Previous finalists were announced earlier this week:

The ConnectedCOPS Awards were created by LAwS Communications with the intent of recognizing the good work being done by individual officers and law enforcement agencies with social media. The international law enforcement community will be considered for these awards. Any officer or agency anywhere in the world is eligible.

A New Platform for Community Engagement and Neighbourhood Watch in the 21st Century


The New South Wales Police Force’s , (Australia) eyewatch program brings the community and police together to communicate and solve problems, using Social Media – facebook. The NSWPF has two strategies:

  1. Local Community policing information via 91 local and specialized facebook pages.
  2. The reinvigoration of its Neighbourhood Watch program thorugh the use of Closed and Secret Facebook groups (90 groups established as at 24th of April 2012)
  3. Text:

    The New South Wales Force, Australia, (NSWPF) has nearly 16,000 sworn officers serving a population of seven million in the state of New South Wales, Australia. The NSWPF’s jurisdiction spans an area of approximately 310,000 square miles.

    In 2010, a team was created to assess the feasibility of taking the traditional neighborhood watch groups into online forum using social media. By early 2011 an implementation plan was developed and project eyewatch was born.

    Project eyewatch represents the NSW Police Force’s response on behalf of the Government of NSW commensurate to the reinvigoration of the concept of Neigbourhood Watch in the 21st Century.

    Active Neighbourhood Watch Groups mobilised through project eyewatch, using the social network tool facebook will be given opportunity to participate with their local Police in active crime prevention. Reducing crime through conscious security measures, visibility and community cohesion can often neutralise risks posed by those in the minority who seek to disrupt our lives.

    It is envisaged that the community, have a wealth of knowledge about their own environs, are in the best position to consider law enforcement and local government strategies to reduce crime and the perception of crime. To assist this process it is considered that project “eyewatch” will operate around (4) key strategies;

    STRATEGY 1 – We will focus on the people who need our help
    With “eyewatch” and Local Police and Crime Management Units will develop a strong opportunity for community to participate in Policing – Our greatest asset is community information, which can be acted upon by Police who are adaptive and responsive.

    STRATEGY 2 – We will empower accountability
    Local Police using “eyewatch” will engage their community to participate in the decision making about policing their communities. They will be facilitated by trained coordinator’s and be supported by Police and Local Government coordination to ensure all opportunities for improvement to safety in communities are recognized.

    STRATEGY 3 – We will balance priorities

    Recognising our community, seeking engagement in achievements and developing issues is the best way to gain support for setting priority. Our strategies and success developed by Local Community and Government Teams will be marketed through “eyewatch”and via media outlets.

    STRATEGY 4 – We will develop community capacity and sustainability
    Local Police will work with their community precincts and actively recruit key community members to develop or enhance their capability and be measured on outcomes, where the need for improvement was identified. If required a higher level coordination and support will be provided to them by Crime Prevention Partnerships, Regional Interagency Teams and support services.

    Community engagement is already part of the way in which police “do the business”. It is the involvement of the public both individually and through groups, committees and agencies in the decisions we make and the activities police undertake. “eyewatch” allows a greater flow of information via the social network phenomenon.

    The program has seven main benefits: gives the community greater access to information, provides real-time engagement, seeks a consensus on problems, provides accurate and up-to-date information, facilitates forums to find solutions, creates an ability to provide feedback, and develops a high-value community network.

    NSWPF’s eyewatch strategy incorporates not just Facebook pages, but also Facebook groups. The Facebook pages are used by the Local Area Commands to push out crime prevention messages, alerts, updates, and other pertinent community information. The Facebook groups provide a closed forum for discussion, essentially bringing traditional Neighborhood Watch Groups online. However, these online groups add a new element by giving the opportunity for a particular demographic to collaborate in environment with law enforcement. For example, groups have been created for the retail community, those from rural areas, and school administrators. In addition, NSWPF has created internal groups, such as a group for crime prevention officers. Because the agency spans such a large geographic area, the best place to come together is sometimes online, rather than in person, and the Facebook groups provide the opportunity for internal collaboration.

    Using social media tools has allowed NSWPF to reach larger and more diverse audiences than ever before. The online forum serves as a place to get the conversation started, but the conversations do not stop there. People are sharing the information off line as well. There have been numerous success stories since the inception of the eyewatch program. One example: there has been a 20 percent increase in the information flow to the crime stoppers tip line.

    When asked what advice he has for other law enforcement agencies looking to establish social media presences, Chief Inspector Maxwell’s first comment was “don’t be scared.” Social media is simple and can be used as a joint problem-solving tool, bringing the community and the police together.

    As the NSWPF moves toward its 150th anniversary, they plan to establish an eyewatch presence for all their Local Area Commands. As the program becomes more mainstream in New South Wales, NSWPF hopes that the social media tools are used not just in emergencies and other specific circumstances, but in the “every day” policing that is so important to a community.

    Chief Inspector Josh Maxwell will deliver the opening keynote address at The SMILE Conference™ in Richmond, VA in September.

    Maxwell has been a police officer in NSW for 22 years, with his career covering General Duties, Plainclothes and Investigations, Public Order and Firearms and Operational Safety Instructional duties. He has been involved in tactical, operational and strategic command of major incidents and police operations as well as education delivery, administration, human resource management and leadership. Chief Inspector Maxwell is currently the Project Manager for Project “eyewatch” – New South Wales Police Force.

    Chief Inspector Maxwell has undertaken significant studies in the tertiary, vocational, law enforcement and emergency management sectors and holds a Master of Education (ACU), Graduate Diploma of Professional Leadership & Education (ACU), Graduate Certificate in Professional Development & Education, Bachelor of Policing (CSU) and an Associate Diploma of Policing (CSU).