At the last count, there were 70 million registered Pinterest users with just over 2 million in the UK.
Most people use Pinterest to browse retail stores or indulge their interest in fashion, food and drink, or their own particular hobby or passion – be it tattoos or Moorish architecture.
I tend to use it as a way of storing and sharing infographics relating to my work interests – social media, drugs and crime.
But Pinterest has other uses too, it’s become sufficiently popular for police forces all over the world to adopt it, for a wide range of purposes.
Locating the owners of stolen property
A recent post by Inspector Roger Nield (@rogernield2703) on this site describes how Surrey police in the UK used Pinterest to return a large quantity of watches and jewellery recovered from a search at a burglar’s home.
Police officers realised that it could be very difficult to locate the owners of the stolen goods since property was often poorly described on crime reports and the burglaries had taken place in several counties.
So they decided to use social media to help.
While some officers searched for all recorded burglaries committed using their arrestee’s particular MO, others took photos of each piece of jewellery and uploaded them to the Surrey police Pinterest board.
Police then wrote to every known possible victim providing a link to the Pinterest board.
This enabled possible victims to peruse the board in their own time.
Victims who weren’t sure whether an item was actually theirs could liaise with police around serial numbers, receipts and other evidence of ownership.
Interestingly, some victims who found one stolen item subsequently returned to the Pinterest board and found others.
Surrey police are confident that they have not been deceived and that only actual victims have had their, often much treasured, jewellery returned.
The Victoria Police Department in British Columbia, Canada have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to stolen goods whose owners they are trying to find.
Finding wanted criminals
The local paper in Pottstown Pennsylvania – The Pottstown Mercury – posts photos of suspects wanted by the police in a number of local areas. Local police supply mugshots which are then uploaded onto the Mercury’s Pinterest Board.
Locating missing people
In the same way, the Kansas City Police Department maintains a Pinterest Board of local missing persons.
Sharing information about street drugs
Kansas City Police Department also maintains a whole host of Pinterest boards.
One provides details about unsolved homicides.
Another shares images of street drugs and paraphernalia with the purpose of helping local people, particularly parents, identify substances and put them in a position to have a conversation with children/other loved ones about any drugs they might be using. The board also provides links to effective ways of talking to children about drugs.
For police services all over the world, Pinterest is beginning to provide the same sort of opportunities as Twitter and Facebook (for latest police social media practice in Europe, see this series of posts).
It enables police to have a much greater reach into local communities and share information at minimal cost.
Police can use social media to broadcast information, request intelligence and, now with Pinterest, provide a better service for victims of crime.
If you know of other police uses of Pinterest, please let me know in the comments section below.