- Contact Name: Chief Inspector Joshua Maxwell
- Contact E-mail: email@example.com
- Date: 3/1/2012
The New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF) has nearly 16,000 officers serving a population of seven million in the state of New South Wales, Australia. The NSWPF’s jurisdiction spans an area of approximately 310,000 square miles.
In 2010, a team was created to assess the feasibility of taking the traditional neighborhood watch groups into online forum using social media. By early 2011 an implementation plan was developed and project eyewatch was born.
According to the eyewatch brochure, the program has seven main benefits: gives the community greater access to information, provides real-time engagement, seeks a consensus on problems, provides accurate and up-to-date information, facilitates forums to find solutions, creates an ability to provide feedback, and develops a high-value community network.
NSWPF’s eyewatch strategy incorporates not just Facebook pages, but also Facebook groups. The Facebook pages are used by the Local Area Commands to push out crime prevention messages, alerts, updates, and other pertinent community information. The Facebook groups provide a closed forum for discussion, essentially bringing traditional Neighborhood Watch Groups online. However, these online groups add a new element by giving the opportunity for a particular demographic to collaborate in environment with law enforcement. For example, groups have been created for the retail community, those from rural areas, and school administrators. In addition, NSWPF has created internal groups, such as a group for crime prevention officers. Because the agency spans such a large geographic area, the best place to come together is sometimes online, rather than in person, and the Facebook groups provide the opportunity for internal collaboration.
Using social media tools has allowed NSWPF to reach larger and more diverse audiences than ever before. The online forum serves as a place to get the conversation started, but the conversations do not stop there. People are sharing the information off line as well. There have been numerous success stories since the inception of the eyewatch program. One example: there has been a 20 percent increase in the information flow to the crime stoppers tip line.
When asked what advice he has for other law enforcement agencies looking to establish social media presences, Chief Inspector Maxwell’s first comment was “don’t be scared.” Social media is simple and can be used as a joint problem-solving tool, bringing the community and the police together.
As the NSWPF moves toward its 150th anniversary, they plan to establish an eyewatch presence for all their Local Area Commands. As the program becomes more mainstream in New South Wales, NSWPF hopes that the social media tools are used not just in emergencies and other specific circumstances, but in the “every day” policing that is so important to a community.