Did you know that the Spanish national police force Twitter account @policia has over half a million followers?
Only the FBI has more.
— Helen Reynolds (@HelReynolds) June 25, 2013
and on their patrol vehicles:
Granada police have Twitter handles on their patrol cars too. Mayor wants government more accessible & accountable pic.twitter.com/7geLHYGmdF
— Gordon MacMillan (@gordonmacmillan) June 24, 2013
Using Twitter to gather intelligence
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.
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.