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

Summary:

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).

Social Media Quick Tip: Try GroupTweet

One of the tens of thousands of third-party apps available to help a tweeter use Twitter caught my eye recently. It had functionality I’d been seeking for a long time for the Bellevue Police Department in Nebraska. We launched it immediately.

Among many other things, GroupTweet allows accounts to retweet important people automatically by the inclusion of a hashtag. In Bellevue, for the past three years the officers would tweet and would be manually retweeted into the police tweetstream. There are many other auto-retweet tools, but we couldn’t find one that would include the original tweeter name as well as make the tweet look like any other retweet.

There were two features that were must-haves:
1. The retweet needed to include the original tweeter’s name.
2. We didn’t want every tweet to be retweeted from each tweeter.

GroupTweet solves both problems. It gives you a range of tweet format choices. And the original tweeter can determine which of his/her tweets is retweeted by the main account.

In the image above, the tweet sent by @SgtCReed contains the hashtag #pd. When he sent it, it was nearly instantaneously retweetd by @BellevuePolice. Any tweet he doesn’t want retweeted, he would simply leave out the hashtag. And also note, the hashtag is omitted in the retweet. That’s a special option in GroupTweet.

Another use for GroupTweet would be for select internal communication needs. One could set up a “protected” account on Twitter where you have to be approved before following it. Put that account into GroupTweet. The account can be configured to receive messages from its GroupTweet members via direct message, those direct messages would then be retweeted by the private/locked account to be seen by the other members. This last paragraph will be a bit more clear after you’ve played around with GroupTweet, which I hope you do.

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on LawOfficer.com.

Stop and Search and Replay

Stop and search has always been a friction point between police and the communities they serve. Indeed several commentators cited it as a potential contributory factor to last year’s riots.

The New York equivalent “Stop-and-Frisk” has proved equally contentious with almost 700,000 people questioned on the city’s streets last year.

The vast majority were non-white and almost 9/10 had not committed a crime – see this article by Ryan Devereaux (@RDevro) in last week’s Guardian for further information.

However, of even more interest to me in the article was the news that the New York Civil Liberties Union had developed a mobile phone app to monitor the use of ”Stop-and-Frisk”.

I have written many times on this blog about how new technologies present new opportunities for law enforcement agencies to catch and prosecute criminals – from Smartphones that can report themselves stolen to the increasingly sophisticated police use of social media for gathering intelligence, investigating crimes and establishing evidence.

Of course, the same technologies present new opportunities for criminals too and the balance of power has shifted many times since the invention of fingerprints right up to DNA profiling and now, it would seem, the potential interception of all online communications.

But everything I have written about so far has involved the adoption of new technologies by either the police or the criminals they are trying to catch.

So it’s interesting to explore an innovation by a more neutral party.

How it works

The most important thing to understand about this app is that it is designed to be used by witnesses – not subjects – of Stop-and-Frisk.

This is particularly important. If the subject of a stop went to get his phone out of an inside pocket, it would be very easy for a police officer to assume he was reaching for a gun, with potentially tragic consequences.

The app has three main functions: record, listen and report which are explained in the short YouTube clip below:

Currently, the app is only available on Android, although it should be available for iPhone in July.

When I got a copy to test it out, I found that it had been downloaded by over 5,000 people in its first week.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the app enters into common use.

There is clearly value in ensuring that police officers in any country operate in a non-discriminatory way.

It’s also very easy to imagine how individuals who have been stopped with good reason might choose to act up to the camera, potentially igniting further problems.

I’m very interested in your views – from what ever perspective.

Please leave your comments below – there’s no need to login.

Social Media Quick Tip: Facebook Admin Roles Are Here

Finally, some GOOD news about Facebook. In a previous quick tip we told you of their plans to roll out admin levels. The long-awaited feature has finally arrived. For law enforcement agencies that have more than one page administrator, this is a significant development. It’s especially important with the new ability to receive messages on pages.

There are five levels of admins. The top level is Manager and only a Manager can add admins or assign levels to admins. But everybody is a Manager to start, by default. From the Facebook help center, click here to see a chart that describes each admin level and what access each has.

So for example, if you have the messaging feature enabled on your agency’s fan page, so that fans can send messages, now you can assign an admin at the moderator level. That person can answer those comments but not create posts as the Page.

To add, delete or change the role of admins, select Edit Page and then Admin Roles. Want to feature your admins on the page? Also in the Edit Page area, select Featured, and choose the people you’d like to be shown on the left of the page.

This Social Media Quicktip was previously published on LawOfficer.com

Inside Twitter: Tweeting from prison

copyright www.patdollard.com

My recent series on how to make the most of Twitter for workers in the criminal justice system created a decent amount of interest among police, probation and legal staff but very little from those working in prison.

This is entirely unsurprising since people inside generally don’t have access to mobile phones or the internet.

So, if prison officers can’t access Twitter, how can a prisoner tweet – and do so regularly?

There was a fascinating recent article in @insidetimeuk by Matthew Whitehead and Andy Stanford-Clark on how they helped their friend Mark Alexander continue tweeting from behind prison bars.

Mark was convicted of the murder of his father in 2010 and is currently appealing against that conviction.

Before his conviction, Mark was an avid Tweeter and Matthew and Andy worked out a way for him to continue to use Twitter from inside in order to get support from his family and friends and to publicise his appeal.
How it’s done

Essentially, Matthew and Andy wrote software which subscribes to all the tweets sent to Mark’s account (@tap_ma) and compiles them into an email message.

These tweets are then sent to Mark using the emailaprisoner service which allows anyone to write to prisoners, when the email reaches the prison, it is printed out and passed on to the prisoner.

These emails are limited to 2,500 characters, but because Tweets are famously only 140 characters long, this equates to 15-20 messages at a time.

Twitter direct messages can also be passed on in the same way.

Unfortunately, the technology (for fairly obvious prison security reasons) only works one way.

So for Mark to reply to his tweets, he has to write a traditional letter which includes a series of Tweets which Matthew and Andy then type and post online.

In the article, Mark describes how even this snailmail version of Twitter makes him feel in much closer contact with his friends and more supported as he copes with prison life.

Necessity is truly the mother of invention.

You can follow emailaprisoner on Twitter: @prisontechnolog

You might also be interested in the only legal Blog by a serving prisoner: Ben’s Prison Blog

Many thanks to @prisonerfamily for the headsup on the Inside Time article.

This article was previously published on Russell Webster’s blog.

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