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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Police & Twitter, Spanish Style

Did you know that the Spanish national police force Twitter account @policia has over half a million followers? Only the FBI has more. Police display the national Twitter handle on their uniforms and their patrol cars. Spanish Police use Twitter differently from British Police - the focus is not on engaging with individual members of the public but on gathering intelligence - frequently to target drug dealers.

Empecemos

Did you know that the Spanish national police force Twitter account @policia has over half a million followers?

Only the FBI has more.

A recent post by Helen Reynolds (@helreynolds) gave some interesting information about the way Spanish police promote their Twitter account, on their uniforms:

 

and on their patrol vehicles:

 

 

Using Twitter to gather intelligence

A recent BBC news post on the same subject revealed that the @policia account has been particularly successful at gathering intelligence from the public.

Spanish police have made numerous “tweet raids” on drug dealers.

They first launch a Twitter campaign which publicises a specific email account that guarantees confidentiality to facilitate online collaboration.

According to official figures, tweet raids led to the arrest of 300 individuals in Spain last year.

Another successful example led to the arrest of a rapist who attacked a 15-year-old girl at a party in a park in Seville. Several people who were in the vicinity took photographs of the young woman and her aggressor which later circulated across the social networks.

After locating the author of an image posted on Twitter, who had apparently witnessed the episode, police made contact with him and obtained enough information to be able to effect an arrest.

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Y finalmente

What is particularly interesting to me about the Spanish approach is that, unlike, most British police tweeters, they don’t use Twitter to engage with members of the public on an individual level – the @policia account follows no-one.

Nonetheless, police adoption of social media seems to be a success all round the world.

 

2 thoughts on “Police & Twitter, Spanish Style”

  1. To me, looks like you’re forgetting to point the main characteristic of @policia, which is precisely the one that has made them as successful and news worthy: their tweets are goofy, they don’t take themselves too seriously (if at all sometimes!), they use social-media speak, you read most of their tweets and you smile, unless they get it “right” and then you let lose an outright, highly amused laugh…

    The FBI account has more followers because is the forever popular FBI, and the US has way more citizens, but they are all official sounding and boring. Same happens with most of other law enforcements’ accounts. Our Spanish @policia may be many things, but they are approachable, even more in Twitter, they made easy for their followers to think: why not to help?

    1. Thanks for your comment, Victoria
      Glad to hear that goofiness is a key attribute – it’s the same here in the UK, Twitter has enabled police officers to show the human being behind the uniform which has great improved relations with ordinary members of the public.

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