Police reach out with social media updates

By Roger Moroney

Across the landscape of policing, communication and creating a social connection is vital.

Embracing the rapidly evolving electronic age was "another step forward for the district", the newly arrived Hawke's Bay Area Commander, Inspector Tania Kura, said.

During a break in a busy schedule of getting out and meeting staff across the region since arriving about a fortnight ago, Ms Kura ran through the latest addition to the police "face" while in Hastings yesterday.

Namely, Facebook.

Hawke's Bay police have also engaged Twitter, which has become equally widespread in terms of putting out super-quick messages.

"As an organisation, police have to keep up with the times and continually look at how we can improve our communication with the public," Ms Kura said.

"Facebook, Twitter and other social media have become embedded in our society and it's how many people communicate now."

She said the district Facebook page would be used as a portal for police news and events, as well as to run photos of people wanted by police, plus security camera photos where people needed identifying.

"Often we are looking for information about certain people or witnesses, and posting information on Facebook and Twitter will provide us with another tool to reach people."

Police would also be looking for Twitter to provide updates on incidents such as road closures or detours, traffic problems and civil emergencies, and details of big events such as concerts.

Ms Kura said most households now used at least one form of social media and that provided police with the opportunity to get information into the public domain quickly and efficiently.

"If we have a crash that closes a road or highway, we can get that out on Twitter in an instant and tell people to avoid the area or notify detours. In a civil emergency we can use both Twitter and Facebook to tell people what's happening and what they should do. Both are very useful for us."

She made it clear the new mediums were not for reporting crime, and that it followed changes in the district this year which saw a move towards reporting non-urgent crime over the phone simply by ringing the local station and following instructions.

Ms Kura said the new system was working well and was freeing up local staff to attend more incidents and respond more quickly to crime.

The adoption of Facebook and Twitter add to the i-capacity of the Bay police. Two sections are taking part in a four-district trial of new in-car computers and smart phones.

The police are not the only ones to get on Facebook recently. Since starting up recently, the Wanganui Mongrel Mob's Facebook page has recorded about 800 "likes" - most of the comments being from supporters.

Police were not concerned about the site, saying it was not likely the gang would post all their activities on it.

There was no sign of a local Facebook page for the gang, although typing in "Mongrel Mob Hawke's Bay" led to a description of how the gang came about, and a suggestion to sign up for the national Mob site.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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