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Solving crime with social media

I have posted regularly about the ways in which the police are increasingly using social media, not just to engage with local communities but to gather intelligence and pursue investigations.

The iPlod generation is mainly self-taught but developing a more sophisticated approach each month.

However, the UK is still playing catch up with the use of social media by law enforcement agencies in the US. A recent survey found that 80% of law enforcement personnel use social media to conduct investigations. Interestingly, 87% search warrants which use social media to establish “probable cause” are confirmed as legal when challenged in court.

As you can see below, most of this information is garnered from a very lovely infographic produced by Background Check:

If you are interested in US law enforcement use of social media, I highly recommend the ConnectedCops website and following its creator, @LawsComm on Twitter.

This article was previously posted on Russ Webster’s blog.

Using analytics to gauge your social media impact.

Image: http://latesttechworld.com

You can view the use of social media without application of proper analytics tools through the axiom of the old story: A wife and husband were driving on the interstate. The wife asks, “Where are we going?” The husband replies, “I don’t know but we are making great time.” Using social media to get your message out is only a small part of the process. In order to make social media work, you not only have to be able to decide the correct platform for sending messages, but also, how to select and use the correct analytics to determine if you are hitting the right targets. You must know how to gauge if your social media efforts are being successful in order to determine the return on your social media investment,

At Police Department A, the Major in charge of the media relations department is incredibly pleased with the results from the latest surveys showing the impact of department’s social media campaign. Crime may have spiked in one area, due to a string of robberies, but with the use of social media to get the message out, the citizens responded and their help led to the capture of the criminal. In this department, they use  analytics to gauge impacts of their social media messaging in order to help tailor the message platforms for different neighborhoods.

Now, consider the situation at Police Department B. The Chief comes into the media relations department and simply states crime is down, but social media has been a failure. The county manager is going to pull the funding for the initiative if it can’t be shown to be effective. Confused by the statement, the director of social media replies, “For the report, do you want us to combine numbers for all projects, targeted neighborhoods, heat graphs showing area coverage, individually map points or all combined?” The chief simply says, “Yes” and walks out the door.

A single law enforcement organization may well need to use several different social media platforms to get its message out to their communities. The proper platform is dependent on the base makeup of the communities who use various social media is different ways. For example, to serve and connect to the community, an organization has a number of platforms to choose from: direct emails, electronic fliers, blog posts, websites, Facebook, Twitter, or even stay with simple face to face officer to individual to get its message out. But once you find the right social media platform to get your message out, you best not think your work is done. This is the point at which many social media programs derail. You have to determine if your efforts are being successful. You must gauge how much of your target audience received the messages, and then if they acted on the message. Use targeted site analytics to determine your coverage and then the impact of your message on the individuals who make up your communities. You will see if you are making connections, and building the desired relationships, between law enforcement and the community through cyber space. Then, as necessary, you make adjustments to better use the platforms to get your message out.  Without using the correct analytic tools, you are truly operating blind.

Excellent analytical platforms exist that can help you gauge your social media impact. They have varying costs, and can be simple or complex. Before deciding which you will use, first, ask what you wish to discover and monitor, and then how to make sense of the data you will get. How do you want to see your data presented? Do you want heat maps to graphically see your coverage area, straight data numbers, “pings,” two way blog communications or some other way? The choices can be daunting and require extensive homework to choose the right one for your situation. There are over 200 analytical tools on the marked today to include:

  • Google Analytics: Shows how many people went to your website and where they stayed the longest. Are people reading what you want them to read? Did you hit or miss with your organizations website? Remember the website is your brochure to the world.
  • TwitSprout: Ranks your top tweets and number of times retweeted.
  • TweetyFeet: Basic dashboard for multiple sites and lets you know immediately when someone is using one of your tools.
  • HootSuite: Manage your activity from several social media platforms in one place.
  • Reinvigorate: Heat maps graphically show the segment you are hitting.

Even the best analytics provides only so much data; it is the human intelligence from your officers who give greatest insights and confirmations as to your level of social media success. For instance, when you are using social media to alert the community of specific crimes in an area, the commanders see will see any changes in real numbers. Then the question is, did the message make the community aware of the problem, and did they help to resolve the issue? Commanders and officers can talk to the citizens and learn if social media did influence the community in resolving the crime issue. During community meetings, commanders can discuss the social media platforms and see if the community has the ability, interest, or understanding to use them. The feedback may show social media messages being missed by a particular segment of the community, highlighting need for the police to teach the citizens how to use social media. Working with the community in this manner fosters trust in the community for law enforcement.

A street level officers can hand out flyers to citizens on where to find crime tips through the organization’s social media sites. More than anyone else in the organization, they have the ability gain feedback from individuals in the communities and bring back ideas on how platforms are working in area. They can help in the targeting of specific neighborhoods for social media training. But more importantly, they will be asking citizens if they have used the social media sites to learn information from the department to better protect themselves. The one-on-one conversations provide the meat on the bones of the analytical tool framework. The conversations help open the communication pipeline, while the analytics help gauge if the citizens are receiving the social media message.

Simply implementing a social media strategy to get your organization’s message out is only half the battle in an effective social media campaign. You must be able to see if you have been successful. From the outset, your organization must determine what it wants to measure and then choose the appropriate analytical tools. You cannot simply pick one over another without understanding the reach of each one. You might be able to get by with a simple analytic or find you require one that measures many platforms at once. The goal is not to simply go on a social media journey, but to also know when you have arrived at your destination.

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 www.Nextdoor.com 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 www.nextdoor.com. If you would like information about how Richland Hills implemented their program, please contact sheenaparsons@richlandhills.com.

Placing Public Safety First Within FirstNet

The author, Mike Bostic, on the #IACP2012 show floor, sporting his new ConnectedCOPS headgear

“We’re on the precipice of redefining public safety communications,” said Charles Dowd, deputy chief with the New York City Police Department, earlier this year when Congress passed legislation that reallocated the 700 MHz D Block spectrum to public safety. “This is going to transform public safety communications the same way that two-way radio did in the 1930s. That’s how big of a change this is going to be.”

As I have followed the development of FirstNet with great personal and professional interest, Chief Dowd’s enthusiasm sums up my own views regarding the future of public safety. For the past four years I’ve been working with a group of exceptional engineers at Raytheon. The knowledge they’ve shared has made me even more excited to see the development of a broadband network as I know it can go far beyond the limited capabilities and available technology first responders have today.

The FirstNet board has just held its initial meeting. The board includes 12 public sector members; the remaining three members represent the federal government. FirstNet – the First Responder Network Authority – is responsible for overseeing the building and operation of the new nationwide public safety broadband network.

The board has four outstanding people representing the operator’s needs of a new system, one member each to represent police chiefs, the fire service, EMS and the National Sheriffs’ Association. This is fantastic. The challenge for the other board members will be listening to this minority group. The board as a whole can’t allow the politics of business and Congress to shape a system with limited capabilities and limited competition, like we currently have in the public safety field.

I view this challenge through simplistic, definable areas, with complex and competing interests on all sides of the issues. Ultimately, I believe FirstNet can most effectively move forward by laying down these ground rules:

  • Putting the operational needs of public safety first and they should outweigh all other issues in FirstNet’s decision-making process.
  • Local autonomy in a national system should be allowed otherwise the push back from these local entities will doom the effort.
  • Once built, the processes and applications of the system must be based on a platform that allows any agency to tailor it to their own needs. No one entity should control that process, otherwise manipulation by competing industry interests will limit capability, much as it does today.

After spending most of my adult life serving in public safety, I know that departments and agencies have long had to make do with what a small group of companies have been willing to build based on profit margins. All along the tables should have been turned, with industry responding to definable operational needs and demands in dynamic, well-crafted RFPs.

The business world won’t let go of the status quo easily. But I’m confident that the public safety leadership has the strong will to control the future by placing their operation needs at the forefront in FirstNet discussions. If this happens, we would see public safety designing systems that work for them and industry responding to those needs – for the first time.

IBM launches the IBM i2 Group Intelligent Law Enforcement platform at #IACP2012

IBM is working towards becoming the “convener of the eco-system of public safety”

Today at the IACP Conference in San Diego, The IBM team including the i2 Group announced a new initiative to promote the higher level of intelligence analysis – calling it the IBM i2 Intelligent Law Enforcement platform. But, it’s not just another law enforcement solution for intelligence analytics, IBM is demonstrating its profound understanding for the need for integration among and between stakeholders beyond law enforcement in its provision of a solution to do just that. In addition to integrating the informational needs of several lateral stakeholders beyond police, IBM is acknowledging the connection between economic development and a safe environment in which to live.

In the screenshot above, the blue pins represent burglaries, the red pins are fires and the green are medical emergencies.

With the acquisition of i2 Group a year or so ago, IBM has Coplink and Analyst’s Notebook. But with the latest rendition of its software they’re integrating all of that and beyond by combining Big Data with analytics.

In a white paper which addresses in part the need for public safety agencies to do more with less and to link spending to outcomes:

In many developed economies, agencies are tasked with facing these challenges with state or decline real expenditures. … While Public safety agencies in emerging markets may not be faced with resource issues, the pace of organizational change required to deal with the growth in crime means they need to find new ways of working.

Martin Nathan is IBM’s Product Manger for i2 Group’s product line. He acknowledged that a lot of good police work is about a cop’s gut instinct, and added, “police officers are really bright, but there are only so many points of information they can take in. This type of technology grows that ability exponentially.”

What might be even more compelling is the platform’s portrayal of threat to the responding officer. By combining its tactical lead systems and analytical systems into one hub, the front line officers get feedback on suspects in a visual manner that could be lifesaving.

Nathan illustrated a police officer viewing the crime data from the previous several hours that occurred before his shift. Only, it’s not limited to specific crimes, but also fire calls and medical emergencies. And beyond that s/he can gain insight into the individual suspects criminal records and information from social services. Coplink and Analyst’s Notebook capabilities are integrated in such a way to give officers a very comprehensive lay of the land. S/he can see the suspect’s associations with other individuals, and other background information so not only can officers know they have the right suspect, they know how dangerous they are before they approach.

Mark Cleverly is IBM’s Global Lead for Public Safety. He spoke about five areas of need for improvement which guide IBM’s public safety development effort:
1. Increasing access to information, not just for law enforcement but for public partners and citizens
2. Create trust by inclusion of everything that is relevant
3. Delivery of information to the right points
4. Predictive analysis – adding pro-action to response analysis
5. Providing broader situation awareness

Inclusion of social media data sets are in the works as well, future versions of the platform might include YouTube videos and 311 data. Nathan wants to proceed cautiously in order to maintain integrity. He said social media can be a dead-end or a distraction and that the question is how to get to where the real value is. “We have a very good vision of content for social media analytics that we will incorporate after thorough research and through working closely with clients.”

Cleverly added, “we want to be as open as we can be to all participants who play a role in public safety, and that includes citizens, it’s not just about police, fire and ambulance.”

Related IBM whitepapers:
The value of smarter public safety and security

Accelerating economic growth and vitality through smarter public safety management

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