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Surrey police use Pinterest to return stolen property to victims of crime

In June 2013 Victoria Hunter, a Detective with Surrey Police executed a search warrant at the home of a burglar and recovered a large quantity of watches and jewellery. Having checked the stolen property records she realised that it would be very difficult to re-connect what might have been stolen with the owners. Some property was poorly described on the crime reports. It was made more difficult because the area where the offences had taken place crossed police force boundaries. So there were some items that apparently were not recorded as stolen goods.

This scenario will be recognised by every operational police officer wherever they work.

In discussing the situation back in the office a (Civilian) Team Co-ordinator Dawn Lewis mentioned Pinterest the ‘pinboard-style’ photograph sharing social media website and the hypothesis was posed, “Why don’t we post images of the recovered items on a specific Pinterest page and invite victims of crimes to identify what, if anything is theirs?”

As we know “a picture says a thousand words”.

So whilst Vic liaised with the intelligence unit and searched for all the offences that were committed with the subject’s particular style (MO) other colleagues from the team rallied around and supported her by separating all of the pieces of jewellery. DC Phil Leaver had the weary task of capturing images of every piece of jewellery and Investigating Officer Jane Richards went on to upload them all to the Surrey Police Pinterest page. Jane completed this with the support of Matt Heeley from the force’s Online and Production team who arranged access to Pinterest via the force’s IT system.

Meanwhile the Detective had written to every known possible victim and introduced them to the plan for the victims to view the goods and introduced some to Pinterest itself. These letters were hand delivered by neighbourhood officers whilst patrolling their beats. Over 100 letters were delivered.

So there was a suspect, a haul of possibly stolen goods all uploaded to Pinterest and we had over a hundred people who were potentially the true owners of this ‘swag’ with access to the URL – http://pinterest.com/surreypolice/recovered-jewellery/ .

What happened next?

The victims could in their own time and at their own pace review the property photographs. This meant Surrey Police did not need to mount an expensive display of property that might not be visited or where victims could feel under pressure to choose or reject property.

The viewing could be done on the train en route to the office or at home in the eventing calm.

Victims who were uncertain whether an item was actually theirs could seek evidence in the form of receipts or photographs with the picture on-line and with them to compare.

The investigative team would support people who were uncertain about any item. They would check for serial numbers, known damage or marks known only to the owner to confirm or deny ownership.

Due to the novel way the victims had of interacting with the property on Pinterest some people discovered more items in subsequent viewings once they had found one item.

To date no criminal has tried to fraudulently claim goods that are shown on Pinterest.

Furthermore knowing that the suspect committed offences in areas policed by other forces by sharing the Pinterest page officers across the country could have their victims to check to see if their stolen property had been recovered by Surrey Police.

What does all this mean?

The Surrey Police Pinterest experiment is still on-going and there is more work to do. It is a local solution to a specific set of circumstances and of course like the best ideas it has been suggested and actioned by the local team members with appropriate headquarters support. However there is a lot of potential for using Pinterest not just across local police boundaries but internationally. For example it would be entirely possible to share images between detectives from around the world. Also public appeals for missing people could be supported by photos on Pinterest and the “pin-board” updated by people globally potentially helping to protect the vulnerable.

I am sure there will be many Law Enforcement professionals out there who have similar experiences to Vic, Phil, Jane and Dawn and would encourage them to reply to this post suggesting ways in which the rest of us can work smarter, not harder.

Roger Nield is the Runnymede Neighbourhood Inspector for Surrey Police in England. He joined Greater Manchester Police in 1985 and served in Salford and Wigan divisions and on the Tactical Aid Unit before transferring to Surrey in 2000.
Here he has worked on Operational Support and response teams before retuning to Neighbourhood Policing in 2005.

Roger has a master’s degree in Police Science and Management and a Batchelor of Science degree with honours in Policing and Police Studies both from Portsmouth University. He became a Bramshill Fellow in 2008. He and other authors published a paper* of research into the interviewing of vulnerable people in 2002.

Roger’s areas of expertise include Safer Neighbourhood Policing, Co-Location of policing and local authority staff, CCTV, project planning, Operational and Emergency planning, Public Order and CBRN policing and he is learning about the police use of social media. He has recently begun blogging.

* Nield, R., Milne, R., Bull. R. and Marlow, K. (2003) The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 and the interviewing of vulnerable groups: A practitioner’s perspective. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 8 (2), September 2003,223-228

Some cops are just too darn funny

I get calls probably twice a month from a reporter doing a story on how their local police are using humor in social media. They usually want to ask some version of the question “Is that appropriate?” Just today CNN emailed about the Hillsboro, OR Police posting a humorous video to recruit a new Police Chief. While it continues to boggle my mind why people think police can’t or shouldn’t use humor, at least these reporter inquiries are better than the other two calls every month about how some police officer did something rather career threatening on social media, so I’m rolling with it.

The latest cop humor on Twitter comes from York Regional Police. (YRP) A tweet from @Sunith_DB8R this morning went out in Ontario asking for a drug deal in the Vaughan area. The tweet caught the eye of York Regional Police Corporate Communications Supervisor Stephanie Mackenzie-Smith who encouraged Police Constable Blair McQuillan to answer.

Mackenzie-Smith says the phones at YRP haven’t stopped ringing since. But it’s not the first time YRP has made news with Twitter. Last year, @brittvny tweeted about having been smoking pot when she then realized the YRP office at the mall was nearby. YRP had an answer for her too.

@SeattlePD is also a frequent funny tweeter:

In June, after SPD arrested a man for damaging a Norway Maple tree, they tweeted:

Some of the funniest bits come from @SolihullPolice in the UK. One of their most famous:

But some other fun tweets from Solihull PD:




If any of the above aren’t providing comedic relief when you tune in, you can count on @AbbyPoliceDept just about any day:




In the meantime, back in Ontario, Sunith spent the rest of the day tweeting that people shouldn’t take his tweets so seriously. But most signifcantly, he tweeted a thanks to YRP for “making him famous.”

ConnectedCOPS Awards 2013: Finalists for Excellence at a Large Agency

ConnectedCOPS Excellence at a Large Agency


This award is given to a law enforcement agency, anywhere in the world, of 151 sworn officers or more that has demonstrated overall excellence in the use of social media to enhance its services to the public. The agency exhibits leadership, creativity and innovation in its use of social media to engage, educate, recruit, and etc. The agency has a broad and deep understanding of social media use and applies sound governance and strategy in its social media operations. The agency also promotes the use of social networking in law enforcement through its outreach to colleagues and by mentoring others.

We have three finalists and they are:

Reykjavik Police, Iceland
Since it was founded in 2007 the Reykjavik Metropolitan Police (RMP) has worked to enhance the security and feeling of security among those who live, work or stay in the metropolitan area. To achieve this objective the RMP has focused on increasing the visibility of the police, increased information sharing and building a proactive community partnership. The RMP tapped social media at the end of 2010 and is rapidly accomplishing these goals as a result. With over 42,000 Facebook subscribers the RMP is connected to 20% of the population it serves. The RMP also makes very creative use of Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and YouTube.

Saanich Police, British Columbia, Canada
The Saanich Police Department (SPD) believes that the true essence of community engagement via social media is accomplished by empowering its agency’s members. The department’s newly established social media policy provides the ability for all agency members to reach the community. SPD supports and encourages specific units within the agency to engage on a personal level. SPD credits its social media program for ensuring that its messaging and community engagement activities are delivered in a clear, timely and responsible manner. With creativity and innovation the SPD has become a global leader with its use of social media.

Cape Coral Police, Florida, United States
Social Media is a major component of the Cape Coral Police Department’s (CCPD) Community Engagement Program. In order to achieve fundamental transformation and a significant shift in the direction that the Department was moving, the CCPD used a two-pronged approach. First, CCPD took back control of its presence on the web from a central city webmaster and went in a completely different direction. CCPD created a new website built around a blogging engine and tightly integrated with social media and optimized for searchability. The focus was on rich media, compelling content, useful information, and 2-way communication with citizens. Second, The CCPD Social Media Program focused on key social networks in order to maximize the reach of the agency’s message. The CCPD has focused on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to achieve its goals and become world leaders in police us of social media.

Winners will be announced September 25th at the SMILE Conference™ in Omaha, Nebraska.

Previously announced finalists:

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.

ConnectedCOPS Awards 2013: Finalists for Top Cop Award

ConnectedCOPS Top Cop

This award is given to the sworn law enforcement executive of the rank of LT (or its international equivalent) and above, at any worldwide law enforcement agency who has demonstrated significant and sustained executive leadership to further the use of social media and Internet technologies in law enforcement. This individual is a risk-taker and a pioneer in his or her promotion and use of social media in policing. The recipient of the Top Cop Award also gives his thought leadership and expertise freely to others.

The three finalists are:

Chief Brian Kyes, Chelsea, Ma Police
Because of Chief Kyes’ tireless devotion and commitment, and in a very short amount of time, the Chelsea Police Department has developed a strong presence in social media. The Chelsea Police Department launched a brand new multi-lingual ChelseaPolice.com web site. The site offers a lot of information for the public to access with a blog, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and the Chief’s Weekly. Chief Kyes always stresses the need to acknowledge the diversity of the city and build a program where citizens could become more engaged with public safety and related events.

Deputy Chief Peter Sloly, Toronto Police
Because he was so quick to see the benefits of implementing social media into police operations, Deputy Chief Sloly was among the earliest of adopters of open source technology into law enforcement. Three years into the Force’s Social Media Strategy, over 300 members have been trained and authorized to represent TPS in social media. Deputy Sloly’s approach has been to decentralize social communications. His colleagues and subordinates will say they believe his approach is saving lives. Deputy Sloly is constantly called upon to share his knowledge at police and social media conferences, which he does regularly.

Inspector Michael Brown, West Midlands Police, UK
Inspector Brown is widely known and recognized for his work in mental health policing. His work, especially his “Paramedic Series” of posts on his blog Mental Health Cop has educated police officers, their agencies and others internationally. Inspector Brown freely gives of his time and expertise to mentor his colleagues at hospitals, ambulances services, mental health units as well as patients.

Finalists in the other awards categories have been announced throughout this week on this blog. Check back to see the finalists for the Excellence at a Large Agency Award tomorrow. Winners will be announced September 25th at the SMILE Conference in Omaha, Nebraska.

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.

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.

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