It’s a simple thing really, writing an FBML (Facebook markup language) script for a new Facebook tab. That’s what Jeff Brown did. “It’s not rocket science”, he said and he’s right. But still, HE DID it. It may not be rocket science, but with 500 million Facebook users, putting a tab to allow citizens to leave a crime tip on a Facebook page is positively brilliant.
Brown is a computer training consultant in Truro Heights, Nova Scotia. His company is Alpha Computer Training and Consulting. He was talking with Constable Scott Mills (Toronto Police) one day when they cooked up the idea. They knew that having a system to report crime within Facebook was a bad idea because Facebook founder and CEO Zuckerburg isn’t exactly known for privacy protection. “I realized all we had to do was create a button that could open the form.” So Brown worked with Kevin Anderson, the founder of Tipsoft (now owned by CrimeReports), which is the engine behind the CrimeStoppers anonymous tip service.
Brown installed the tab on the CrimeStoppers International (CSIWorld) Facebook page. Then he called me. Together we’re working with any law enforcement agency, who’s already a Tipsoft client, to install the tab on their Facebook pages. While it’s possible to place the tab on any Facebook page, Kevin Anderson pointed out, “to do so would be against the Tipsoft Terms of Service”. Furthermore, said Anderson, the national receiver center for those tips would get overloaded. By the way, all it takes to be a client for Tipsoft’s webtips is $600 a year.
Jeff wrote directions which include the FBML script. If you’re somewhat technical you can do it yourself. But if you need a hand, either one of us will help. You’ll need a logo not wider than 520 pixels. Store the logo on a server somewhere and copy and paste the URL (web address) to the logo so it’s handy for later. You’ll need the URL for the webtip page from your CrimeStopper program. You install FBML with one click, copy and paste Jeff’s script, replace the two URL’s with yours, and you’re done.
The Arcadia Police Dept is in Los Angeles County and has created a tab on its Facebook page which takes a citizen to the LA Regional CrimeStoppers webtip form. I worked with Sgt Tom LeVeque to install it in about 15 minutes last week.
LeVeque acknowledged the installation was “a breeze. Even with my minimal computer expertise, I was able to cut, paste, and substitute some links into the code and we were done in minutes.” LeVeque said having the tab on his PD Facebook just makes sense. “I think this is a great example of how the use of Social Media can be a force multiplier in community outreach and communication. Not only do our 340+ fans have access to us, but any visitor to our Facebook page now has the ability to speak, even anonymously, to the Arcadia Police Department about criminal activity. This type of service furthers our motto, ‘Making a Difference.’”
Any agency which has a tip reporting system can install this tab on its Facebook page. Brown and I are expecting that once word gets out, many PD’s will want to. “I’m pretty sure we’ll see wide-scale adoption of this, it’s just too easy”, he said. It really is easy. But we’re here to help if you need it. If you install the tab at your agency, please leave us a note here to tell us how it went.
Jeff is at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m at email@example.com or 978.764.9887