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5 January 2011, 16:20 | Updated: 5 January 2011, 16:24
It’s just over a year since Bedfordshire Police set up its Facebook page and with 6,200 fans it is now the most popular Police Facebook site in the country.
Using Facebook enables the Police to get their message across in an informal and simple way to people who aren’t normally in contact with them and involve them in preventing crime and identifying criminals. One recent example was identifying a number of alleged football hooligans, whilst another man turned himself in after his friends saw him on the site.
It is so useful as a source of intelligence that guidelines have been put onto it asking people not to post information directly on the site but to send it in confidentially so not to compromise investigations.
Web Manager Andrea Briggs explains: “I think our success is down to the two-way communication people enjoy from our Facebook page. It’s opened up a way of communicating with people who’d rather message us via Facebook rather than contact us another way. We get intelligence about offenders and can promote events such as the Luton SOS Bus, to people who do use other media.
“People ask us all sorts of questions - from the progress of an investigation to what is the Police helicopter doing flying over my house. We reply as quickly as possible so they keep up to date with what’s happening in and around their area and can help us with incidents. We also tell people about other useful sites if they ask a question about something we don’t deal with.
“An organisation can’t be an occasional user of Facebook, you have to provide people with up to date information to keep it fresh and interesting. People use our website if they are looking for something specific but through Facebook we get lots of people visiting from different communities and of all ages, which makes it easier to get advice to people and information from us.
“We give regular updates and new information on a daily basis to keep people coming back. Our success in building such a big fanbase in such a small county shows we are doing something right!”
“Facebook is a great way of engaging with residents, in particular younger and web-literate members of the public. It also provides a space where residents can discuss issues in their areas and offer their own ideas about solving problems or getting help. We do need to manage the comments people put on the site, sometimes having to remove offensive language, but the benefit of this open dialogue definitely outweighs the occasional annoyance. It is a truly interactive place.”
Visit the official Bedfordshire Police Facebook site and find crime prevention advice, updates on community safety campaigns, witness appeals, contact information, links to other useful sites, and a running discussion forum giving everyone the chance to share views on current issues, how the site can be improved and anything else the fans want to share.