Local and national police forces around the world have been using social media for a while already, with varying degrees of success. But one local UK police force is taking to a rather unlikely social network to better engage with the public.
While the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Instagram have long been used as public broadcasting platforms by many authorities, Snapchat has now emerged as an unlikely addition to this list. The UK’s West Midlands Police says it is the “first force in the world to join Snapchat”, and while that claim is difficult to verify, it’s certainly unusual to see a police force publicize itself on the ephemeral messaging service.
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“We’ve already got a massive following online and our messages are reaching half-a-million people on a daily basis,” explains Keiley Gartland, from the West Midlands Police Communications department. “Part of this work is about connecting with younger people and helping them to feel they have a close connection with their local police force.”
There’s little question Snapchat is proving as popular – if not more so – than the more established social networking heavyweights such as Facebook, so this move does make sense.
If you live in the ‘hood, you can search for ‘WestMidsPolice’ now on Snapchat, and it will be sharing photos via Snapchat’s Stories service every 24 hours. In terms of what you can expect to see, well, it will be from the force’s various departments, including the Cannabis Disposal Team, Traffic Unit, CID, neighbourhood officers and the Dogs Unit.
However, West Midlands Police does remind its followers not to use social media to report crimes – that is what 999 is for.