Coming from a police family, I have always had enormous respect for law enforcement and the job they do, and after having just seen the Facebook application for the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in Great Britain, I am even more impressed.
This just goes to prove that Facebook CAN be useful. Take away all the pokes, games, fortune cookies and other time-wasting applications and you can actually come away with something useful in the end.
Despite living nowhere near Manchester (and despite being a fine upstanding citizen of the law), I decided to install the application to see what it contained. I was extremely curious to see how Facebook was being utilised to fight crime and maintain law and order. Was it just a publicity gimmick or does it have some real substance to it that other police forces can learn from?
The first is a continually updating list of all the recent crimes reported in the Greater Manchester area. Facebook users can then comment if they think they have something to offer that can help the police to solve the case and there is also a direct link for each crime to the GMP website :
Which makes me wonder – is there someone in the GMP who sits there and constantly monitors Facebook for any leads that come in? If so, that must be quite a cushy job.
The second very interestng feature on the Facebook app is the ability to report a crime directly from Facebook to the GMP. It’s an interesting twist on being a police informant or a “snitch”. Instead of the Hollywood stereotype of meeting your police handler in a dark alleyway, you can now log onto Facebook in the comfort of your own apartment and report all of your tips online! Of course, it has a nice name – “Submit Intelligence” – which sounds a lot better than “Rat Out Your Friends And Get Knee-Capped For Your Troubles”. “Submit Intelligence” makes you feel as if you’re James Bond or Jason Bourne doing a great service for your country.
Do you know of any other police forces in the world who use Facebook for fighting crime? If not, why the hell is Greater Manchester Police the first and only police force doing this? This is a fantastic idea.
Repeated calls to the GMP Press Office to find out their Facebook success rate were not returned. I guess they are too busy playing Scrabulous.