Social Media and Essex Police
by Jo Shaer, on August 11, 2011
On Tuesday night, with London on lockdown and our Prime Minister warning that anyone causing trouble would face the full weight of the law, many residents of the towns and cities of the UK were very concerned. Especially those in counties like Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire and the West Midlands - all within close proximity to some of the cities which had already been affected.
Large numbers of our local police forces had been seconded to the capital and this fact had been regularly broadcoast on the News programmes. The whole scenario of reporting strategies, tactics and police activity to the general public - some of whom were involved in the previous night's riots - seemed most bizarre.
In broad daylight, teenagers in cities in the Midlands and North were setting up barricades and throwing stones in an attempt to provoke the line of watching police, a fact which was shown as live coverage on the television. As darkness fell, things kicked off in several major cities and the social networks were full of rumours that fires were being set and violence erupting in many local towns. Having made sure that my own teenagers were at home, I suddenly noticed messages from Essex Police on the social media platform, Twitter, refuting many of the claims and helping to retain calm about incidents in our local towns of Southend, Basildon and Colchester.
These updates continued at regular intervals until around midnight when it became clear that whatever trouble might have been planned had been nipped in the bud by a strong police presence in the relevant areas.
Today, on Twitter, Essex Police have also tweeted a link to their own review of the events of the last few days and, in particular, the fact that they have been monitoring the various social media networks for some days resulting in the arrests of an 18-year-old man from Grays, a 16-year-old from South Ockendon and a 17-year-old man from Clacton for "using social networking sites to encourage others to gather together and cause disorder".
However, Essex Police are not the only ones who monitor social networking sites for unlawful activity. Webpro News have published a post about the New York Police Department who keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook for criminals who go online to brag about their crimes. It also mentions some of the perpetrators of the recent crimes in London who have gone online with photographs of both themselves and the loot they had stolen.