Social media websites will continue to be utilised by the Greater Manchester Police, this time to help the public make an ‘April Fool’ out of thieves, burglars and robbers.
The force will publicise who they need to catch by uploading the offenders’ pictures onto the GMP’s Flickr account, as well as share prevention information using #AprilFool over Twitter.
Deputy Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: “Residents can pass information at any time by phoning us or visiting their local station, but they can also use our social network accounts and I would urge them to get involved and use our #AprilFool campaign to pass on information.”
This month-long operation builds upon the success of their tackling of other local-level issues – such as burglary in Operation Storm and metal theft in Operation Alloy – and of their applying the internet to utmost effect.
DCC Hopkins believes that ‘the police can only be successful with the help of its community’, and hopes that the ‘April Fools’ gallery of wanted offenders will have positive outcomes, just as the images of vandal suspects on Flickr did last year, in which close to 100 people were charged with offences linked to the 2011 August riots.
Messages will also be posted through Twitter, as well as normal outlets, to remind Greater Manchester residents to lock their windows, doors, garages, and garden sheds to prevent theft – or, becoming an ‘April Fool’.
Additionally, they hope these uses of social media will encourage residents to help the GMP locate and return stolen property. DCC Hopkins urges anyone with information about where and how stolen items are disposed of to get in touch.
“Too often, the victim gets forgotten about,” said DCC Hopkins. “They have treasured memories on their phones now and they are hard to replace.”
He added: “People that handle stolen goods are as bad as the people that steal in the first place. Without the handlers, there wouldn’t be an outlet for stealing.”
Videos relating to operational activity will also be made available on the GMP’s YouTube account so residents can see the police knocking on doors and carrying out arrests.
Councillor Jim Battle, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said that he strongly supports this kind of work by the police.
Councillor Battle said: “It demonstrates clearly the value of working together with the council, other agencies and - most importantly of all - local communities to make our neighbourhoods safer.”
Some may not be comfortable with these exercises in transparency. Communications consultant Nigel Sarbutts declined to comment on this story, but has blogged about this type of community policing on his social media PR agency BrandAlert.co.uk site last August, expressing his worry that it might not ensure a fair trial.
DCC Hopkins confirmed that no personal details will be tweeted and pictures in the gallery will be removed as soon as arrests are made.
Greater Manchester Police updates can be found @gmpolice on Twitter. It currently has over 100,000 followers, more than any other police force in the UK.