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Probation, Innovation & Geovation

The UK government is currently undertaking a review of the probation service and is encouraging probation trusts to be innovative in responding to fundamental change. Jason Davies’s (@b00tstrapper) post shows that there’s plenty of innovation in the current probation service.

SWM Probation Trust’s adventures in mapping, phone apps and pecha kucha.

It’s Wednesday afternoon, mid-June and we’re back in Southampton. It’s the final of the Geovation Challenge. The judges have retired to their chambers. We’ve made our case and it’s out of our hands, but the nerves are jangling now.

This is the culmination of a Staffordshire & West Midlands Probation Trust bid for some GeoVation funding. Ordnance Survey run the GeoVation Challenge with prize money awarded to the best and most innovative ways of combining maps and data to benefit local communities.

We wanted to address the lack of public awareness in community sentences and feelings of disconnection between the public and authority – a sense of distance from decision-making.

We wanted to develop a mobile phone app to make it easier and more likely for people to nominate sites for Community Payback. We would exploit the rise in smartphones and harness the camera and GPS applications to make it happen. The reward would be far greater visibility of the unpaid work that offenders do to improve their local communities.

Copyright Idaho Fish & Game

Part of our inspiration for the idea came from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. A couple of colleagues at work had been talking about the North American wildlife conservation organisation. The IDFG have developed an app that lets drivers report roadkill on Idaho’s roads by taking a picture with their mobile phone and sending the geo-tagged photo in for analysis. Elk and moose lovers, rejoice. This app helps boost survival rates near busy Idaho roads. On one particularly hazardous stretch, IDFG hollowed out a tunnel to protect the travelling beasts from oncoming juggernauts.

We posted the idea on the GeoVation website and waited. 74 other ideas had been submitted, so we were delighted to be shortlisted as one of 20 invited to the GeoVation Camp in May.

We got a small team together to represent the Trust: Mark from IT, Craig from Community Payback and me. We knew we’d have to pitch to the assembled audience and judges, so we got some slides made and put down a few words.

The weekend was challenging, but rewarding and fun. Until Sunday afternoon. On Sunday afternoon it got a bit tense, a bit intense!

Sunday afternoon was pecha kucha.

Roughly translated from Japanese as “chit chat”, it’s really anything but. Two minutes. Six slides. 20 seconds per slide. Auto-timed powerpoint. No room for waffle.

Slide 1: Intro. 20 seconds to explain to an audience of non-criminal justice people who we are, what we do and what on earth is Community Payback anyway?
Slide 2: The Problem. We quote from the final report into last summer’s riots. “People want to be involved in improving their areas and more communities should nominate projects for Community Payback… Probation Trusts should publish clearly accessible data on the outcomes of community sentences.”
Slide 3: The Solution (Part 1). We want to develop a mobile app that members of the public could download for free. The app will let them take a geo-tagged photo of a site they want offenders to work on. OrdnanceSurvey streetmaps on the phone will display the location to the user, who will be able to manually adjust it to give pinpoint accuracy. The app will send the photo automatically to us and we will assess the site for suitability.


Slide 4:
The Solution (Part 2). We will respond to all nominations, even anonymous ones, via link to a unique url – or webpage – where the nominator will be able to track their request. Suitable projects will be posted on a website with estimated work times, photos of work, clean sites and – most crucially – stories about the offenders’ experiences.
Slide 5: The Execution. This is the business model bit. We talked about getting an app developer and hosting the devices through cloud servers. We wanted a clean, modern and professional website capable of handling live maps of projects. People could search on the map for projects in their patch, or zoom in on any part of the Trust and click on tags to reveal photos and links to stories.
Slide 6: Next Steps. We talked about market research and publicity. We talked about our strong partnerships with police and local authorities, other Trusts who would support us and help us spread the word. We started allocating specific amounts of money to each bit.

For us, The most important part of the app was the opportunity to engage with the public as they followed progress online on the work sites they had suggested.

We imagine a map-based tapestry of local stories – stories the public could play a part in, stories about sorting out issues in people’s neighbourhoods, stories about the reintegration and rehabilitation of offenders.

We must have done OK because we got through to the final. We are back in Southampton. Ten teams are there and there’s a genuine sense of collaboration that has been there since the beginning. Of course everyone wants funding, but there’s no overt sense of competitiveness.

The judge returns and promises not to keep us in suspense.

He only seems to deliberate for eight or nine hours.

He tells us four of the ten ideas will get funding. Three prizes of £25k are announced: Groundwork’s Green Space Mapper, Ideal for All’s Shout Crime app and Sustaination. He hasn’t said our name yet, but there’s one prize left – £40k funding… It’s us!

Now the real work starts. Firstly, we get a prototype app, some cloud server and the backend of the website built. Then some testing and market research. There’s work to do, but we’ve got funding and technical support from Ordnance Survey, the backing of our chief executive and the words of the riot report ringing in our ears, so watch out for developments.

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.

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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

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