June 16, 2011 at 1:34 PM ET
North Vancouver's Royal Canadian Mounted Police didn't launch the Facebook page documenting riot pictures from last night's post Stanley Cup-riot, but they're all for it.
"If U have photos of rioters, upload 2 tinyurl.com/3easkqp. Geotag or identify time & location 2 help investigators. #canucks#riot," Sgt. Peter DeVries, North Vancouver Mountie spokesperson posted on Twitter last night, with the link leading directly to the newly launched Vancouver Riot Pics: Post Your Photos page on Facebook.
When it comes to cleaning up the trash responsible for flaming cars and trash cans, smashed windows and department store looting, the Mounties are obviously not playing.
Police departments increasingly use social media as a tool for law enforcement, and Sgt. DeVries' request for geotags to pinpoint incident locations show how tech savvy combined with community outreach can help get the job done. It helps that when it comes to Facebook, criminals ain't that bright — as you can see in this picture Sgt. Peter DeVries shared on Twitter:
While DeVries has around 400 Twitter followers at the time of this post, the Vancouver Riot Pic Facebook page has more than 33,000 followers, ostensibly all for helping the police. The page description reads:
Lets post those pictures and put a label on the losers that made this city look so bad, ruined my neighborhood, and acted with out any class what so ever. We know you just took the photo's, so post em, and let them speak a thousand words.
Notably, North Vancouver's Royal Canadian Mounted Police doesn't seem to have much of a Facebook presence itself, with the link from its official website leading to a profile, rather than a page, that you can friend, rather than "Like."
Other police departments in Canada and the United States are making use of the world's largest social network to engage community and fight crime.
"In the traditional way of doing things, you’ll get a major incident like a school shooting and the phone at the police department is ringing off the hook, with media as well as concerned members of the community asking the same question: 'What’s happening?' " constable Scott Mills, Toronto's Police Service social media officer for corporate communications, told The Next Web earlier this year.
"Now, I can tell them to start following a specific hashtag, and I take control of the virtual scene. We’re saving parents hours of worry, and we’re not getting deluged at the scene with people asking us what’s going on."
Social media and police work can clash, as the recent non-story about "up to 30 dismembered bodies" not found in Texas revealed. A police tip from a psychic tweeted by a local news station resulted in media vans converging on what turned out to not be a crime scene resulted in embarrassment for everyone.
There are also reported cases of police officers confiscating or destroying cellphones and even arresting bystanders who used their mobile devices to record police actions.
Then there are the everyday concerns. Many law enforcement agencies are concerned about individual officers embarrassing the department via their own personal Facebook pages (which defense lawyers can use to try and throw out cases).
"I think in the beginning, police officers heard a lot about stupid cops who got into trouble or got their department in trouble because they said embarrassing things," Lauri Stevens told The Next Web. Stevens, founder of LAwS Communications, a social media consultancy that works with law enforcement says things have changed over the past year. "There is less debating about whether or not to get on social media. Now it’s about — we understand we need to do this, so how do we go about it?"
In Vancouver, citizens are also reaching out to police via the Internet, via the Post Riot Pic eFacebook page, as well as the Tumblr blog Vancouver 2011 Riot Criminal List , in which users can provide photos or identify rioters in those photos.
Meanwhile, the North Vancouver's Royal Canadian Mounted Police gave a Twitter shout out to the Facebook event, Post-Riot Cleanup - Let's help Vancouver: "Great community initiative! RT @Vancouver: @vancouverclean for the volunteer clean-up tomorrow; here is the fb event — http://t.co/lTv5LVY" Sgt. DeVries tweeted last night." More than 14,000 said they will attend.