21st century Fermanagh policing: the role of Facebook and Twitter
Sergeant Scott Fallis and Constable Trevor Connor using Facebook to get their message across and to connect with the Fermanagh public.<<
LOCAL policing is no longer just about having officers visible on the streets.
In today's world of social media, Fermanagh PSNI has embraced Facebook as a tool to reach out to members of the local community.
Covering everything from public order offences, arrests, community events and road closures the Fermanagh PSNI Facebook page provides an insight into the day to day policing of the County.
The local police service was the first area in F District to tap into the social utility and over the last few years has amassed more than 1,700 followers.
And according to Fermanagh North Neighbourhood Team Leader, Sergeant Scott Fallis, plans are afoot to increase the local online presence.
"Police continue to engage with the community in all the normal tried and tested ways.
"Whilst I strongly believe personal face to face contact is the most important means of communication, we all need to embrace new technology.
"Using Social Networking sites such as Facebook allows police to send out relevant messages to a large platform of people instantaneously.
"And Facebook will continue to be used to inform the public of community safety issues, information appeals and also day to day successes.
"From a neighbourhood policing perspective I will be using it to inform people about community issues, publicising not only events coming up, but issues such as anti-social behaviour and crimes in the local area. Although the local Facebook site has been running for quite some time, my input in Fermanagh North will be ramped up in the near future to include a lot more local issues."
Sergeant Fallis explained there were four officers charged with the task of posting information on the page.
"Any officer can email or text me something to post on the page," he said, "And since we can use our phones to update the page, it doesn't interfere with our work on the ground."
There are currently over 33 million Facebook users in the UK. Representing 53 per cent of the population, this makes Facebook an increasingly important form of communication for any organisation to utilise.
"On the Fermanagh PSNI page we have a lot of regular followers as you can see from the comments people post," Sergeant Fallis acknowledged, "A sizeable number of those are young people who are seeing it as a way of communicating with the police and finding out about what we do. And that will only increase in the coming months."
In recent weeks the Fermanagh PSNI page has included posts with pictures showing what life is like behind bars, information on preparations for the Twelfth celebrations, Queen's visit and Olympic torch relay as well as the launch of the PSNI's Policing with the Community Awards.
When a call was put out recently for all keen photographers to submit their best pictures of Fermanagh's sceneic beauty to be used as the page's profile picture it attracted a great response.
And in run up to this year's Lady of the Lake Festival, Sergeant Fallis says Facebook will prove a vital tool to keep the public up to date with traffic diversions and what's happening where and when.
Looking ahead he believes that when it comes to developing the social network presence further, the sky's the limit.
"It can lead to many different opportunities in the future," he said, "We could run competition type events for the youth or encourage people to take photographs of community life in their particular area -- that's all open to explore.
"The PSNI also uses Twitter to send out short details regarding appeals for information, road closures and so on and currently has 19,000 followers.
"It will certainly grow alongside Facebook. There is also the potential to explore the benefits of using Flicker as well. I know forces across the water already use it to display lost property they have recovered.
"This is only the beginning of a lot more work for us with social media. It is certainly something that we need to embrace to keep up to date with not only the youth but people of all age ranges who are involved in Facebook and Twitter."
Superinendent Alywin Barton added that while comments or questions were welcomed from anyone on the PSNI Facebook pages, abusive comments would be removed.
"Facebook is not, however, a means of reporting a crime or criminal activity. We do not monitor the site constantly. Individuals with information relating to crime or criminal behaviour are asked to continue to report activity of this nature via telephone by either ringing the non-emergency number 0845 600 8000, or by contacting the independent charity, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency, dial 999."
Fermanagh PSNI's Facebook page can be viewed at psniFermanagh@facebook.com.
This article appeared in Impartial Reporter 12 Jul 12