The riots of 2011 proved pivotal in how the police use social media to monitor behaviour of the community to allow them to keep a step ahead. At first it seemed that were on the back foot, as gangs organised themselves using Blackberry BBM instant messaging. However once this was clear the police decided to fight fire-with-social media and were able to prevent escalation in particular hotspots, such as Oxford Street and the Olympic site.
Since then social media has been embraced by most forces and the comms teams within the police forces are fast becoming specialists.
Earlier in the year West Midlands Police used a tweetathon to raise awareness of inappropriate 999 calls made by the public and to encourage use of the 101 number for non-emergency calls. Over a 24-hour period approximately 15,000 calls were received and many of these were frivolous. For instance, an emergency call was made by a member of public to report spiritual healer as a fraud, while another man dialled 999 asking the police "to come out to frighten his sister”.
As part of the campaign, the force tweeted links to recordings of previous bizarre calls, including one from a man claiming to have found a hair in his food at a fast food restaurant.
The campaign was regarded as a huge success as WMP saw calls to the 999 number reduced by over 500 calls a day freeing up the switchboard for emergency calls.