I am delighted to share a guest blog post from Billy Grogan aka the LESM Chief. Billy is the current Chief of Police for a metro Atlanta police department. Billy has a passion for law enforcement’s use of social media and believes all police departments can benefit from using social media to engage our communities. Billy has had opportunities to provide social media training across the country and share useful updates on his website.
Over the last several years, many law enforcement agencies have leveraged the power of social media to engage, educate and inform their communities, which has contributed to a more positive relationship with their citizens. Although a positive relationship with the community is important, there is so much more that can be accomplished when you sprinkle in a call to action occasionally to spark the engagement.
There are five primary calls to action that law enforcement agencies can use to create even more engagement with their community.
1. Identify an Unknown Suspect
One of the most widely used calls to action is to post a photo or video of a suspect committing a crime and ask the community for help in identifying the suspect. If the quality of the video or photo is terrible, you will definitely hear about it from your fans. Many are hyper critical of poor images. Unfortunately, we have to use the images we get and on many occasions they are not very good. Here is a great example of a suspect being identified as a result of a Facebook post by the Logan Police Department.
2. Locate a Suspect/Wanted Person
On many occasions, the suspect has been identified or a warrant has been issued and the department needs help locating the person. Social media can be an effective tool for this as well. Check out this example.
3. Identify the Owner of Lost or Stolen Property
What happens when you recover either lost or stolen property and you have no idea who it belongs to? Normally, it is placed in the evidence room and after a period of time disposed of according to local laws. What if you could return some of this property to the rightful owners. You can if you use social media!
Officers with the Dunwoody Police Department once found an iPad in the middle of the road. The screen was locked but it had an image on it. A quick post of the image on Facebook helped the department reunite the iPad with its owner.
Another effective social media platform to use is Pinterest. A number of departments have been using Pinterest effectively to return property to its rightful owner by creating a Recovered Property board. Below is a short story explaining how the Dover Police Department uses Pinterest and their results.
Here is a quick example of how the Bellevue, WA Police Department uses Facebook to help connect stolen property with no known owner to the rightful owner.
4. Help Finding Missing Persons
There are thousands of missing person reports filed weekly across the country and the world. For many of these cases, there is little the public can do to help. Under certain circumstances though, the public’s help can be useful.
One example is when there is a missing person suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia. In this case, the public can be very helpful in locating the missing person, since many of them may be on foot and still in the area.
One example comes from Dunwoody. An elderly person was reported missing early one morning from a home next door to a large park. Initially, it was believed the person had only been gone a short period of time. However, after further investigation it was determined the man had been missing for about eight hours.
Therefore, a photo of the missing person with all of the particulars was placed on the department Facebook page. Within eight minutes, a local citizen living outside the City of Dunwoody found the man over three miles away and called 9-1-1. The Good Samaritan said he checked Facebook before he left for work, saw the post about the missing man suffering from Alzheimers and spotted him a short distance from his home. Great results like this can happen in any community.
5. Help Locating Missing Animals or Finding Their Owner
This is a big one often overlooked by many departments. If you really want to engage your community, post a photo of a missing animal and ask the community to help you locate the animal. On the flip side of that, post a photo of a found animal and ask the community for their help in locating the owner.
In either case, the post will almost certainly be shared, viewed and commented on numerous times. In fact, this type of post will possibly be one of the posts with the most community engagement. I promise. I am not exaggerating.
The Dunwoody Police Department posts this type of call to action frequently. One particular one that was extremely effective was posted in 2013. A dog was missing and the resulting post was shared over 7,000 times and the dog was eventually returned to its owner.
There are a number of other calls to action that can be used, some of which may be unique to your community. However, these five calls to action will certainly get you moving in the right direction. I believe these five calls to action will definitely improve the engagement with your community and serve as a force multiplier in your crime fighting efforts.
Get in touch
Try them out and let me know how they worked for you at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lesmchief
Also, sign up at www.lesmchief.com/subscribe to receive updated #LESM news and free content to help you in your social media efforts.